...of faith, family, and farming
Two years ago I experienced my greatest fear, greatest joy, and greatest blessing all in less than 24 hours. I was eight months pregnant with our fourth little duckling and my husband was away during the week for work. At 10:30 pm on a Monday evening, three and half weeks before I was due, I went into labor. I called the hotel where my husband was, to wake him up and tell him he needed to make his way home because the baby was coming. I prayed he would make it in time, but since our other ducklings all took 14-16 hours to arrive, I felt pretty confident he'd be home in plenty of time since he was only a couple hours away. He did. Around 3am, my mom made it over to watch the other three ducklings so Andy and I could make our way to the hospital. I was at a 4 and not in real active labor, but since I had excessive amniotic fluid, they kept me due to the risk of my water breaking. All checked in and cozy in our room by 5am. All was going well as I labored all morning and afternoon as usual.
By 3 pm that afternoon the baby started showing signs of distress. I was approaching 10 so the doctor continued monitoring his heartrate, and felt I could get to 10 and deliver in time. As I continued to labor, two things started happening. One, the baby's heartrate was continuing to drop during contractions, and two I started spotting some bright red blood. Both were concerns, but I was so close to delivering, the doctor pressed on. Finally around 5pm I was at 10. I did my best to deliver this guy, and after three other deliveries I knew how to push, but this one just wasn't budging. His heartrate continued to drop, and wasn't recovering as quickly. I also started spotting more. The doctor checked and rechecked, and couldn't figure out why this child wasn't budging. He seemed wedged against my pelvis for no apparent reason. We continued pushing to no avail. After 45 minutes of futile attempts at delivery, and the signs of distress on the baby increasing, the doctor turned to me and said "I think you've had a placental abruption, and its time for an emergency C-section." The baby's heartrate had dropped to 32 and wasn't coming back up. Within two and half minutes I was in the operating room being torn open.
The shock of what they found was evident in the audible gasp. I did indeed have a placental abruption, and my child was drowning in my blood. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is when the placenta tears away from the uterine wall prior to delivery. The concern with this condition is two fold. One, the placenta is the baby's lifeline providing the oxygen and blood needed to survive in utero. Without its attachment, the baby is without those basic needs. Two, the mother will hemorrhage and can bleed out in seconds before anyone can save her. Not only was I hemorrhaging, but had been for awhile. Over an hour. The fact that our little guy was stuck, was killing him, but saving me.
My husband and I often talk about that moment when we first saw our child. The doctor pulled him up and over to hand him to the nurse and we both caught a glimpse of a completely lifeless child. Neither of us can ever describe that image completely. The color of slate gray his entire body displayed is indescribable. He was limp, motionless, and soundless. We watched him be exchanged between hands, as a team of six medical professionals furiously went to work on him. My husband and I glanced at each other with fear already knowing. They barked orders at one another, and the others in the room assisting them. His lungs were at 100% capacity of my blood. He had been without oxygen for an undetermined amount of time, and you could almost feel the intensity at which they diligently worked to save him.
A team of four surgeons continued working on me, and all they kept saying was "Oh my God. Look at this. I can't believe this. I've never seen this. Look at this. Oh my God." Yes, I was completely awake and aware of what was going on the entire time. Since I had an epidural for delivery, there was no need to knock me out, and there wasn't time. After what seemed like an eternity, we heard a small noise escape from our baby. It was the first time we knew for sure he wasn't already gone.
A nurse hurriedly wrapped him up, picked him up, and said "Momma, here is your baby." She then turned to my husband and said "Are you going with the baby, or staying with Mom?" To hear my husband retell this portion will bring you to tears. While it was only a fraction of a second, he had a thousand thoughts run through his mind. He wasn't sure the baby or I were going to make it. The thought of walking out that door and never see me again made him want to double over and throw up. Staying with me, and having only that lifeless glimpse of our child was overwhelming. Then he remembered a conversation we had when I was pregnant with our first child. If anything were ever to happen, he would stay with the child. I was an adult and knew what was going on. The child would need an advocate. He made his decision, kissed me on the cheek and rushed out the doors with the medical team and our helpless child.
I turned my focus back on to my doctors to realize what they were marveling at was how large my uterus was from all the blood pooling inside of me, and how it all stayed there instead of me bleeding out. Even though I was awake and coherent, I wasn't sure I was going to make it either. I started praying. I prayed to my God that if it was my time to go that he would give my family the strength to press forward. I prayed he would give my husband courage and skills to raise our babies on his own. I prayed my children would grow up knowing how much I loved them, and how I wanted nothing more than for them to know Him, love Him, and serve Him above all else. I prayed that if both of us went, our family wouldn't lose sight of Him through all the hurt. I prayed that if our duckling left, we would find joy in the moments we did have with him, and be content knowing he was created, and was now with his maker never knowing the pain life can sometimes bring. I prayed like I never prayed before asking Him to save us both, but knowing His ways are higher than mine. Not my will, but thine.
Two hours after delivery I was wheeled out of surgery and into recovery. The nurses given strict orders I wasn't even allowed to sit up for the next 8 hours, and if I lost one more drop of blood to page them immediately. I laid in recovery shivering uncontrollably from the medicines, and waited. I still didn't know how our duckling was. Did he survive? The nurse brought me my belongings and I was able to text my husband asking how he was. His response was "He's alive. The doctor and I will be down soon." Okay, so he was alive, and now out of surgery, I was pretty confident I was ok as well. A deep breath of relief, and thanksgiving to God. Another half an hour passed and my husband and the pediatric neurologist arrived. Our son was stable, but had been without oxygen for an extended period of time. That oxygen depravation had caused some brain damage. Half of his face wasn't working. They performed many tests to determine the extent of the brain damage, and were prepping him for transport to another hospital for cryotherapy where they use cold treatment to stop any further brain damage, but it can't reverse the damage already done. They would provide us with the test results as soon as they came back. Cryotherapy only worked if it was done quickly, so they would have him transported within the next 6 hours. I listened intently, and kept repeating to myself. We are ok. He's ok. We will be ok. We can do this. There will be changes in our family dynamic. We will have to educate our other ducklings and make some life changes for him, but we can do this. We will be ok. When the doctor finished answering my questions, I looked at my husband, and with tears silently rolling down both our cheeks I said, " We will be ok." He replied, "Yes, we will Mommy." He kissed my forehead, gave my hand a squeeze, then he and the doctor left. I laid there alone again, and waited. After a couple minutes, the nurse crossed the room and approached me. She asked me if I needed anything, and if I was ok. I gave her the same information the doctor told me and she nodded as if she overheard. She looked at me very serious with tears in her eyes and said "You handled that with so much grace." Now, as a side note, if you ever want to encourage someone, if you ever want to give someone strength, if you ever want to take someone's breath away in an uplifting way, when they are facing one of the hardest moments of their life, you tell them they are handling it with grace. That nurse will never know how much she helped me hold it together in that moment. That, to this day, is one of the single most encouraging things anyone has ever said to me, and I will never forget her because of it.
Another hour passed and I was comfortably checked into my permanent room. It had been 3 hours since I delivered our child and I still hadn't got to hold him, or see him since they whizzed by me right after delivery. I prayed some more. My husband finally came in. He brought me pictures of our little duckling, and pictures of him with our other three little ducklings. They had been able to see him for a few minutes, and those pictures meant everything to me. I asked why they weren't holding him. He told me they could, but he knew how much it would hurt me if everyone got to hold our child before I did, so he let everyone go see him, but no one was allowed to hold him until I got to. He is such a good man. My heart overflowed with love for him in that moment. There are few like him, and I am so blessed to call him my own. He then showed me a video of the sweetest sound either of us had heard. His cry. He said it took them so long to get him to a point that he could cry, that when he finally did, he had to record it because he knew it meant he was doing better. Such a beautiful sound.
We stayed together waiting to hear back on the test results and when they were going to transport him. We got the call around 2 am. The test results were in. There was no brain damage found on any of the tests, and the side of his face that wasn't working, was now fully functioning. Pause. What? Our little duckling had fully recovered from the oxygen depravation, and the doctors felt it must have been some transient nerve damage caused by his face being wedged into the side of my pelvis during delivery. He was a completely normal, healthy baby. They were going to keep him in the NICU to continue observation and monitoring, but it appeared he had made it through. We cried the happiest tears in that moment. God had answered every prayer I had prayed, and my cup overfloweth.
Eight hours post surgery, I was finally allowed to go see, and hold our healthy baby boy. They wheeled me into his isolated private room in the NICU, undid all his tubes and monitors, and laid him into my arms. That moment is etched into my memory forever. I was never so happy to see someone, hold someone, or feel someone. I rocked him, nursed him, and sang to him through my tears, and thanked God for all of those moments.
Four days later, our littlest duckling and I were released from the hospital and home in the comforts of our living room, surrounded by our sweet little family. This experience has taught me so much. Most notably, the extreme power of prayer, and to hug your babies every single day, because you never know when our precious Lord will call them home.