At my 20 week ultrasound, it was confirmed that we were having a boy. I was overjoyed. We both were. But our joy suddenly diminished when we were told that the ultrasounds were showing several calcification spots. One was on the baby's heart. I asked my doctor what the worst case scenario could be, and she said it could be a marker for Downs Syndrome. She sent me to another doctor to get higher-resolution ultrasounds. He confirmed that the baby did not have downs, and we were relieved. I had these ultrasounds every three weeks from that point on to monitor the spots, and they eventually became a non-issue. At some point, we were told that the baby was small. I am 6 feet tall, and Eric is 6'2", so this didn't make much sense to me. Plus my belly was huge! I was retaining a heck-of-a lot of fluid. The doctors never seemed particularly alarmed. At the 32 week ultrasound, Cole was 3 lbs. 12 oz. He had been growing at the same rate at every checkup, though, so that was good. We didn't need to be worried. My mother's instinct felt like something was not right. I remember thinking at one point that I might have a baby with special needs. I think God was starting to prepare my heart.
On Sunday April 17th, 2011, I began having some contractions and light spotting. We went to the hospital in the middle of the night, and we spent about three hours there. I was sent home because I was not in labor, and I was told to take some medication to keep the contractions in check. I was fine for about a week. On the following Sunday, which happened to be Easter, the contractions and spotting started again. I tried to ignore them and felt if we went to the hospital again, I would just be sent home. The contractions persisted. Night time came, and I could not sleep at all. Finally at about 3 am, I woke Eric and told him we better get to the hospital. During the 25 minute drive, my contractions seemed to come about every 5 minutes, and I started to feel panicked. Cole was not due until June 9th. It was too soon. I'd had that last ultrasound a week before, so I knew how small Cole was.
We arrived at the hospital, and my water broke, but only a little bit. We were told I was going to have that baby. Tears came instantly. What was going on? I hadn't even had my childbirth class yet. I didn't know how to breathe through contractions. I had not had my baby shower. We were just not ready. The doctors decided to stop labor for at least two days so that I could receive steroid injections for Cole's lung development. Those two days were absolutely terrible. I'll spare you the details, but I don't think I've ever felt physically worse in my whole life. The medication was indeed stopping labor, but its side effects were horrendous.
Cole had a strong heartbeat just like he had throughout the pregnancy. The nurses laughed about how active Cole was. We could hear him on the fetal monitors, and I just couldn't imagine what he was doing in there. He just sounded so busy!
On Wednesday April 27th, the doctors stopped "stopping" my labor, and we all thought it would just start to roll along. It didn't, really, even after I was given pitocin. Concerned about infection, my doctor broke my water completely, and all Hell broke loose. I could feel all that fluid just gushing out, and suddenly I began having unbelieveably intense contractions. They kept coming without hardly a pause in between. I've never experienced pain like that. I couldn't see it, but my doctor said I was bleeding, and just like that, I was rushed out of the room for an emergency c-section. I was told my placenta had probably abrupted, and I might have to be put under. They didn't end up doing that, but I sure felt like I was going under, and it was scary. What happend next is a blur. I remember bright lights and many people rushing around. I remember receiving the epidural and Eric standing next to me saying, "You should see what I'm wearing." Then he said "Cole is out", but I couldn't see Cole. Instead I heard a voice somewhere behind me counting quickly. Somehow in my fog, I realized Cole was receiving CPR. I felt no emotion. I was too drugged.
In the recovery room, someone told me that Cole needed to go to the NICU at a different hospital, but I would be able to see him before he was taken away. He had stopped breathing during the delivery. He was put on a ventilator, but the doctor had a very difficult time putting the tube down Cole's throat because his airway was so small. I was told that Cole's ears were lower than normal, his toes and a few fingers were fused, his head was small, his jaw was pushed back too far, and worst of all, he was having seizures. I listened, still in a fog, and still felt no emotion. Cole was brought into my room in one of those incubator-looking beds. He was swaddled, wearing a hat, had his eyes closed, and wasn't moving much. This was not the active, busy baby I thought I was going to have, but he was here nonetheless. He was here, and I couldn't hold him, and he was going to be sent about 10-15 minutes down the road to another hospital. It seemed like there were many people in the room with us in addition to my parents and Eric's parents. This was not how I pictured meeting my son for the first time. In my foggy, nauseated state, I reached my hand through one of the holes in Cole's bed, slipped his hat off, and stroked his head. My doctor told me much later that someone else in the room had asked quietly, "Does she get it?". Right then I didn't. None of what was happening seemed real. I'm not sure how much time passed, but it was time for Cole to leave. According to my doctor, I wouldn't get to see him until probably 4 days later.
This was just the beginning of our unexpected, painful journey with our son.
|Cole, not long after his birth|