Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jack's birth story. Unabriged.

Several months ago I made the promise to share Jack's birth story so as not to forget the details of that life-changing day in the story of us. My original intent was to write it down soon after he was born. Well, it's almost one year later and I figure if I leave it any longer, it's never going to happen. So here it goes....

My pregnancy with Jack was fairly smooth sailing up until about the sixth month when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes; not a huge surprise considering my medical history. Since GD is fairly common and easily treated we did our best to stay calm and not be too concerned. And while the amount of carb tracking, sugar level testing and insulin injecting I had to do was far from fun (not to mention the number of check-in phone calls I had to make to one Maryanne from Alere) I was thankful that the baby remained unharmed by the condition. At the same time I found out I had GD, I was also told I had a low platelet count; a somewhat insignificant health concern that would only be a potential hazard during the actual birth. All that said, I was now in the "high risk pregnancy" category and my chances of giving birth naturally were greatly decreased.

Fast forward three months to May 27, 2010 when it was decided that rather than wait the full 40 weeks for delivery, the doctors wanted to go ahead and deliver him at 37 weeks to avoid any further risk due to the diabetes. An amnio was scheduled for June 9 to determine if Jack's lungs were mature enough to function on their own, and if so he would be delivered that day. At first, Tim and I struggled with whether to let him come out when he was ready or to trust the doctor's advice and take him out prematurely. We went with the latter, agreeing that if we waited and something bad happened as a result, we'd never be able to forgive ourselves.

The morning of June 9 came with a large measure of trepidation not only because I had reservations about the safety of an amniocentesis but also because the results would determine two critical things: whether we'd be having the baby that day as well as my chances of delivering naturally. The only "plus" I saw to having a C-section was that I would avoid the very real possibility of getting hemorrhoids and/or anal fissures as a result of pushing the baby out, both of which I was terrified of. Oh, and of course that whole part of pooping during delivery. Other than that, I did not want a C-section. I wanted my all-natural birthing experience, complete with epidural-free pushing and screaming and encouraging words like "One more push! I can see the head!" all culminating in that moment of triumph that ends with a slimy baby being plopped on my chest for two hours of glorious kangaroo care. I knew that on the C-section end of the spectrum, what awaited me was a much more sterile, routine form of birth that would leave me feeling disconnected from the process. And here's where that pesky low-platelet count became a problem: in order to qualify for the required spinal anesthesia, my count had to be 100,000 or above. If not, I would have to go under general anesthetic which meant I would be completely unconscious for the birth and (for some ridiculous reason) Tim wouldn't be allowed in the delivery room at all. Imagining our baby having to enter this world in an operating room with neither parent present was so far from what we had envisioned. But my platelet count had been hovering around the 80,000 mark for most of my pregnancy so we knew our chances of things working out in our favor the day of were slim.

Anyways, back to the story. The ultrasound that accompanied the amnio revealed, at least to their estimation, that Jack was "at least ten pounds" (he would turn out to only be 7 pounds) which meant I would not be having a natural birth (I saved my flood of tears for the bathroom ten minutes later) and in went the very long, scary needle to test his lung maturity. They told us the results occasionally came back within a half hour, though it normally took an hour or two. If they didn't come back favorably the first time, they'd wait another few hours and that would be the conclusive result. As a preemptive measure, my OB, Dr. Jesse, wanted to go ahead and schedule the C-section for 4 p.m. that afternoon. This gave us about 5 hours to wait on the results which we were assuming would give us the green light. Not surprisingly the first set of results came back inconclusive which meant instead of heading straight to the hospital to get prepped and ready for surgery, we were told to go home and wait. If you know me at all... I need to know now, so waiting on anything - especially important information - is like pulling teeth.

So home we went to wait it out, all the while knowing that if I missed that 4 p.m. surgery time, we'd have to wait even longer to have the baby. And when you have it your mind that something exciting/slightly traumatic is going to happen today, there's nothing worse than being told it will have to be put off until tomorrow. The other trouble of course was that in order to have the surgery, I would have to abstain from eating and drinking for the rest of the day; this ran in direct conflict to my diabetic diet of needing food every two hours. By 2 p.m., the lack of calories began to wreak havoc on my sugar levels. I was dizzy, cold and shaking by the time I called the hospital to ask for advice on what to do since we still didn't have the second set of amnio results. I also knew this was around the time they would need to start prepping me for surgery if we were going to be on schedule. They told me I could either just go ahead and eat something (thus eliminating the now small chance of having the C-section that day) or come in and get hooked up to an I.V. I immediately voted for the latter.

About an hour later I was laying on a hospital gurney listening to the thump, thump, thump of Jack's heart on the fetal non-stress monitor, with a sinking feeling that his birth was not going to be happening that day. There was still no word on the results of his amnio and it was now about 3:30 p.m. It was hard being so close - hooked up to an I.V. in a drafty hospital gown on the birthing floor, half an hour away from my scheduled surgery time. Someone came in and drew blood and then left again. A couple of med students stopped by to ask a few questions, left, and then came back to ask a few more. I was given a hospital bracelet. More blood work. I had to sign a few papers. Somewhere amidst all these little things I began to wonder if there was a bigger picture coming together. That's when someone said, "Oh didn't they tell you? You're having the C-section today." And suddenly everything changed from moving at a snail's pace to moving so fast I barely had time to catch my breath.

I think between the time I arrived at the hospital and the time I was rolled out for surgery, I must have answered 100 different questions, a third of which I would answer and then have to answer again 15 minutes later. In fact, the Q & A portion of my prep time took so long it delayed the surgery and even my doctor became exasperated and asked if they couldn't hurry it up a bit. One of the most absurd questions had to be the very last one which went something along the lines of, "What kind of a learner are you? Do you learn by seeing, doing or hearing?" Uhhhh, I guess all of them? To this day, I still don't know how this pertains to having a baby. One huge question I had was about the results of my platelet count. If it wasn't 100,000 or above our whole experience of Jack in-person would be happening well after he was born. All we could do was pray and ask everyone we knew by text or phone call to intercede for us; that by some miracle, even though it had never even come close to that in previous months, the count would be in our favor. We asked one of the med students if they knew the answer.... "Oh, didn't they tell you? Your count was 101,000."

One platelet over. One. If you could put that one little platelet under a microscope, you'd see three letters stamped in bold on it: G.O.D.

I'll admit that in the midst of elation over the news that we were having the baby today and that we'd both be present for the birth, I had a sudden wave of motherly instinct to protect my child and not invade the warmth and shelter my womb provided. Hearing Jack's heart beating on the monitor and knowing he was completely oblivious to the fact that in less than an hour his safe place would be violently ripped open brought tears to my eyes.

However, as I was being rolled into the operating room not half an hour later, my thoughts changed to frantic second guessing of whether I was even ready for this. I quickly determined that no, I was not ready to have a baby. This really registered more like "NOO!!! I'm not ready to have a baby!! Ahhhhh!" Of course, nature (or in my case, a doctor's will) has a way of overriding such doubts and before I knew it I was inside the walls of the cold operating room sitting on the table waiting for my spinal. I had read that these needles can cause paralysis (I would later mentally celebrate the moment I could move my toes in recovery) so I was praying I would not end up as a new mother confined to a wheelchair. My anesthesiologist made the lovely decision to let his student try her hand at a spinal on me and her first try was a fail. I knew this when I felt some "spinal discomfort" and heard him say "Nope, you've hit a bone there." Might I add that "arching your back like a cat" in order to administer the needle is not as easy as it sounds, not to mention the fact that you're under a lot of pressure to do it right so as to avoid injury. The second time around she got it right (with a bit of help, I think) and after the numbness took effect the C-section truly began.

Tim was by my head to keep me calm (though I'm an old pro at surgery!) and we waited in suspense as they sifted through my organs. It's a strange thing to be aware of people's hands moving inside your abdomen - a sensation I can only describe as pulling and tugging. While on their way to get Jack, it was discovered that part of my bowel had attached itself to the outer lining of my stomach due to scar tissue build-up from past surgeries. It just so happened that one of the best abdominal surgeons in the area was a floor below us and was able to fix the problem in twenty minutes. Had this issue not been discovered (and it wouldn't have if not for the C-section) I could have faced serious health complications in the future. This surgery within a surgery can only be attested, once again, to the glory of God and his faithfulness to watch over me.

After breaking my water (I was hoping to hear some sort of huge SPLAT, but was sadly no) Dr. Jesse was finally ready to get our little guy out. She let Tim know it was time and that he should get the camera ready. Woo! Here we go! Tim stands up (until this point he's refused to witness the rearranging of innards.... how could you not watch!?!) turns on the camera and....... bam, the battery dies. Seriously? Seriously. Oh well. Now I'll never know what a baby being pulled out of a womb looks like. Tim's thankful he only saw some limbs and minimal innards. Up until this point, I'm still fighting a losing battle against feelings of uncertainty and unpreparedness about becoming a mother. And that's when I hear his cry; the voice of the little person I've been curious to meet for so many months. It's ring is as clear in my memory as the day I first heard it. An immediate shift takes place as something deep in my heart is brought to it's knees and my only concern becomes the distress of a baby who needs to be held and comforted. Quickly. Not soon enough he's bundled up in Tim's arms and falls asleep almost immediately with a tiny hand wrapped around one of his dad's fingers. I will never forget the image of that sacred moment; my two loves holding on to one another.

And that is how, in so many miraculous ways, little Jack Elijah Myers came into this world.

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