The Deep End

From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I knew instantly that we were having a boy. Much to my delight, my 16-week ultrasound confirmed that fact. There he was…our baby Jack. A boy was what I had wished for, and my wish came true.

When my husband and I tied the knot in 2012, our wedding theme was ‘love birds’
Instead of a ring pillow, we used a bird’s nest. When it came time to choose a nursery theme I chose birds… I went to the craft store and bought a wooden egg about the size of an avocado…
My plan was, to paint it either blue for a boy, or pink for a girl, place it in the nest, and then photograph it for our gender reveal. So after we saw Jack on the monitor at the 16-week ultrasound, that’s what I did.

A few days after our gender announcement went out, I got a phone call. It was the doctor’s office; they wanted me to come in right away. My heart sank. I started to panic. I quickly dressed and my hubby rushed me to the doctor’s office. They quickly took us back and left us in exam room.

When the doctor came in, she coolly informed us that she had read the ultrasound and there was a problem with the pregnancy. She claimed that there was fluid on Jack’s brain, that he only had a 2 vessel cord; his face was deformed, that he was abnormal, and would not survive more than a few days if we went to term with him.

I broke down. So did my husband. The doctor then informed us that she was sending me to a high-risk specialist for a prognosis.
We cried all night. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I just cried all night. I cried harder than I’ve ever cried. I cried harder than I cried when my mom passed away. I cried harder than I cried when I miscarried our first pregnancy back in 2008.

THANKFULLY the specialist was able to fit me in for an appointment the next day. I pulled myself together and my mother-in-law took me to the appointment. Just as suddenly as the rug had been pulled out from underneath me, it was put back.

The ultrasound tech at the specialist was wonderful; she had a fantastic bedside manner.
She had better equipment too. She checked Jack all over. He was completely perfect; there was nothing ‘abnormal’ or ‘deformed’ about him at all.

I’ve never felt so thankful. The doctor came in and asked me why I was there. When I told him what my doctor had said, he emphatically reassured me that the baby was perfect, and told me to go home, and enjoy the rest of my pregnancy.
I hugged that doctor. Then I immediately called my husband. We both cried tears of joy.
I should have switched to the high-risk specialist right then, but I couldn’t because I wasn’t actually high risk…Or so we thought.
I did switch doctors though…same clinic just a different doctor.

Fast forward to the last part of my second trimester. I keep going to see the doctor for abnormal vaginal discharge…it seemed to me like I was losing my mucus plug. The doctor kept insisting it was a yeast infection. I was also having spikes of high blood pressure.

Then the bad thing happened, at 27 weeks and 5 days I woke up to find I had started bleeding.
We rushed straight to the Hospital. They put me on the monitor and I was having contractions.
After waiting to be seen by the doctor for a very long time, she finally came in to look at me… sure enough, I was not only dilating, but my amniotic sac was bulging through.
They sent me via helicopter to a hospital with a level three neonatal intensive care unit.
They inserted an IV and gave me drugs to stop the labor (magnesium sulfate), and a steroid injection for Jack’s underdeveloped lungs.

I was completely powerless against any of this. It was happening…the baby was coming…all I could do was stay as calm as I could. So I gave in…I had to trust that everything would be ok. By the time I got to the hospital, the drugs had begun working and stopped the contractions. I was still dilated and lab tests showed I was dumping protein in my urine. I would be staying in the hospital on bed rest.

After 2 days on the IV drug to stop my contractions they took me off it. I woke before dawn on the morning of day three in a lot of pain. They put me on the monitor. Baby was doing just fine…But I was having contractions and had dilated more. The baby was coming (again).
The doctor put me back on IV drugs to try to stop the labor…
But by 6 pm my labor had progressed and I was too dilated not to deliver.
Despite the hospital’s best efforts to keep Jack’s arrival at bay…he was coming. I was 28 weeks exactly. I had received two steroid injections.

Thankfully Jack was head down, butt up, and from the ultrasound they did the day before, looked to be the size of a 30-week baby. I was going to get to have the natural birth I wanted…but three months too soon. I was going to have to deliver in the OR, because it had a warm room, and was right next to the NICU.

Hubby and I were supposed to start birthing classes on the coming Tuesday and here it was, the Sunday right before, and we were being thrown in the deep end. Poor guy had no idea what to expect, neither did I.

When the delivery doc started yelling at me telling me to ‘PUSH MY BABY OUT’ I got so mad at her, I unintentionally fired Jack right out of there. There was a gush of fluid, and Jack came flying out. The doctor CAUGHT him, in mid-air and pulled him to her chest. The doctor was covered in amniotic fluid from head to toe.

Jeremy ran out of the room. He thought something horrible had happened. He thought the baby was dead. Jack was very much alive.

He pinked right up and looked around the room at us. I barely got to look at him before they whisked him off to the warm room and the NICU. As they were carrying Jack out, he began to cry for the first time, and his daddy followed him with tears in his eyes. He quickly came back to report to me that the baby was fine and that he had heard him cry. Jeremy’s eyes were still full of tears. I will never forget that moment.
Jack was born at 9:49 pm. It would be some time before we could see Jack…and I was starving as I hadn’t eaten all day. After I had something to eat, had my stomach pushed on…and got cleaned up, we went to the NICU to see Jack.

“You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.”~Author Unknown

Jack weighed 2 lbs 14 oz; he was 15 and ¾ inches long, bigger than most babies born at 28 weeks gestation but still so impossibly tiny. He was so pink and he was all arms and legs. You could see the tiny bones in his back.

It was an indescribable feeling…I went up to his incubator and he was resting inside. I told him I loved him and he opened his eyes and looked at me. I was just a puddle of tears, a complete wreck. I had no power at all. I felt helpless.

I started breast pumping that night. I pumped every couple of hours. I collected whatever I had in a syringe, labeled it with a special label, and delivered it to Jack’s nurse. I stayed in the hospital 3 more days after Jack was born due to an infection. I didn’t mind of course. I dreaded my impending discharge. I did not want to leave my baby behind.

So every minute I could, I pumped, and visited with Jack. When the day of my discharge came I was overwhelmed with intense anxiety. Thankfully my milk had come in and I was pumping and taking milk to Jack every chance I got. I wanted to get as much milk in the refrigerator for him as I could before I went home. It was late afternoon before my husband and MIL managed to get me in the car. That’s when I lost it.

I completely broke down before we even left the parking lot. I cried the whole way home.
I cried harder when I hit the front door…even harder when I looked inside Jack’s bedroom.
All I could think about was how much I wanted my son to come home with us…how much I wanted him to live.

My husband and I drove back to the hospital that night.
We brought Jack some milk…We talked to him…and Jeremy held him for the first time. He was so nervous…Jack was so small and fragile…and all of the leads and wires…the beeping monitors…it was so nerve-wracking for Jeremy. Jack’s nurse brought him out of the isolate, and carefully placed him inside Jeremy’s shirt so they could snuggle skin to skin.
They snuggled like that for a long time…

Jack spent 65 days in the hospital. We visited him every day. We drove 1 hour both ways…sometimes multiple times a day. A wonderful family friend who lived only 20 minutes from the hospital let us house sit for her while she went out-of-town for 10 days.
We even stayed in an RV in the hospital parking lot…The RV was donated to the hospital.
We stayed in it for two weeks so I could be there for all of Jack’s feedings.
We were very lucky. Jack was considered a NICU rock star.
He was never ventilated or on extra oxygen. He was just given a little pressure using room air, and a CPAP machine, for extra help breathing. Even when at two weeks old, he suffered from a staph infection; he kept fighting and growing. Jack also had a bilateral IVH, grades 1 & 2, both resolved on their own. He is our miracle baby.

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”~Mahatma Gandhi

When we weren’t holding Jack skin to skin at his bedside, we were talking to him while he rested in his incubator or crib. We would tell him how proud we were of him. What a good job he was doing. How he was the strongest person we know. How we wanted him to come home with us.
We told him he had to outgrow all his tubes, and leads, and wires, to come home and play with us. So he did just that.
Jack was discharged from the hospital on June 30th, 2014. He weighed 7 lbs 7 oz., and he had grown to 19 1/2 inches long.

“Some people never meet their heroes, I gave birth to mine.” ~ Author Unknown

*Read about life after the NICU HERE

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