Friday, April 12, 2013

Luke's beginning

I'm so excited to share my friend Carrie's story. Luke's birth story, coupled with a family member's abruption around the same time, had a huge impact on the way I thought about birth.

The nurses called him lucky. One of the doctors said he was a miracle. We know that God was watching over us as Lucas came into the world. Here's the story of his rough start, but, all in all, a wonderful beginning.

My first pregnancy and delivery was pretty typical except for a few brief moments when my little girl’s heartbeat dipped during delivery. Otherwise, it left me completely at ease for the second time around, which came 18 months later —  to the day. I never had any problems during my pregnancy with my son besides the typical swelling of the feet and ankles and horrible heartburn.

So, when the big day arrived, all I had was excitement to go along with those fun contractions. I had been having contractions all morning, but didn't think much of it since this had been happening for the past several weeks. While my husband kept telling me to rest, I kept on doing what I needed to accomplish for the day. On my way back from a little errand, I began to realize that the contractions were getting pretty strong and started timing. When I arrived home, I surprised everyone by saying that we might be going to the hospital. I labored at home for a couple hours, timing contractions, double checking my bag, and wishing that my water would break so that I would know that it was really going to happen. Thankfully, it didn't.

Once we arrived at the hospital, the nurses took 20 minutes to come check on me. I must have been holding it together pretty well while getting checked in. They had no idea that Luke was just about ready to get the show on the road. I shocked them when they discovered I was dilated to 7 centimeters, and they quickly got me moved to a delivery room.

From there things really slowed down. Three hours later we were still waiting for my water to break so that dilation would happen faster. The nurses double-checked that I didn't want the doctor to break my water, and I figured that since we weren't in a hurry, we might as well let things happen naturally. Thankfully, this was exactly what needed to happen, because once my water did break things started to go wrong — really wrong.

As soon as I hit 10 centimeters, my water broke, which caused him to drop, and since the cord was wrapped around his neck, it must have caused so much tension that the cord ruptured and the placenta tore away. Without the placenta remaining intact, blood wasn't circulating into his body. But no one knew any of this just yet. The nurse was calling code blue and searching for my little guy’s heartbeat. From the silence on the monitor, I knew she couldn't find one. I held my husband’s hand tightly and searched his eyes for reassurance. He said that it was okay, but I knew he didn't believe it. The room quickly filled with nurses and doctors. Half of them surrounded me as they asked questions of each other. Then they all said, "Push!" And, quite easily, as a matter of fact, he was here!

I heard him cry and expected them to hand him to me, but instead he was passed to the team of NICU doctors and nurses that had rushed in 6 minutes ago. I tried to catch a glimpse of him, but couldn't see much. They said they'd have to take him to the NICU to look him over and that I could see him for just a moment. I'll never forget looking down on his little head covered with a striped, cotton hat and seeing his deep blue eyes looking directly back at me. I murmured a few sentences to him and then they took him away.

My husband asked to go with him, and though I needed him beside me at that time, I knew our son needed his daddy more. Thankfully, our family was there awaiting the birth of the new family member, and they kept me company until I was finally able to see my son. As the nurses finished their post-delivery duties, they repeatedly filled me in on what happened. They said that I did great. That getting him out in 6 minutes saved his life. A few minutes more and he wouldn't have made it. I was numb to everything they were saying and could only think about when I would get to hold my baby.

Two hours had passed before I was able to be wheeled up to the NICU. A doctor came by immediately to fill me in on how he was doing. I did my best to make it look like I was listening, but I just stared at my little baby and wondered if this was really happening. We weren't able to hold him, just touch him through the little doors of the isolette. He was given the last available bed in the whole facility. They were getting ready to give him a blood transfusion and hoping that his blood pressure would rise.

We hardly slept that night and were back up in the NICU early that morning to see how he was doing. The nurses were so kind, were eager to answer our questions and offer any support that they could. It was hard to hear them say how lucky they thought him to be. The transfusion went well and we were able to hold him for a little while. Twelve hours after he was born! It felt so good; like a whole in my heart had just been filled. His blood pressure was still a concern, and they continued to run tests to determine why. Later that day we found out that his platelet levels were terribly low and that he would need to be given more. He was put on five days of antibiotics in case there was an infection causing this, which meant that hopes of him coming home with us were looking pretty slim.

By day two, his blood pressure was looking much better, but he still needed to be given plasma and another blood transfusion. They would run tests that night to see if that corrected everything. Fortunately, the doctor had determined that he was healthy enough to eat. FINALLY! Poor little guy had been going to town on his pacifier, and he was hungry. Family brought our daughter to visit us at the hospital, and that really helped keep our spirits up. We stayed as long as we could, but that night I was discharged and we had to go home empty-handed. I'll never forget the emptiness I felt as I climbed into bed that night. He had been with me every night for the past 9 months, but tonight we were apart.

The following morning, we learned that his platelet levels were still low, but hadn't fallen. He was eating really well and the doctor was finally convinced that I could give him everything he needed. We had an awesome nurse that pushed for keeping him strictly on breast milk. By day four, we learned that he was creating platelets on his own, which meant that there wasn't an infection and the low levels were simply due to his rough start. It also meant that he could be taken off the antibiotics. Things were looking up and we had settled into a little routine.

On day five, we received the wonderful news that he could go home the next day. We wore permanent smiles for at least the next 24 hours. It was over. All the worrying, wondering, and fear were behind us and all that was left to do was thank God, pack up our things, and head home. While we had to wait a few days extra, we still got to experience the happy homecoming we were expecting; a memory that will stay with me always. We are so thankful that we had such wonderful nurses and doctors to take care of Lucas and that we had so much support from family and friends, but most of all, we are thankful that today he is thriving and healthy.