Saturday, December 19th
I began latent labor today. It started out in the early morning from midnight to 6am lasting 1 minute every 6-7 minutes. I was able to rest and woke up feeling refreshed. We started the day by running errands and finished laundry. By the time we got home and started lunch my contractions began again. They were very inconsistent coming in every 5-7 minutes. Our neighbor came to pray for us around 6:30pm and after I took a warm bath. My contractions started to come every 3.5-5 minutes and were strong. I called the hospital and they had us come in for a check up. We headed to triage and it was very cozy. With dimmed lights, my supportive husband, an amazing nurse and resident we got to hear and see Jackson. His heartbeat was strong and he was in picture perfect positioning. They determined I was only 1cm dilated and she stripped my membrane (definitely not the most pleasant feeling). They sent us home, but they were encouraging us as first time parents and said we did the right thing by coming in. Now I'm laying in my own comfortable bed, breathing through each contraction as Jack comforts me. I'm so very thankful for my supportive and loving husband. He's my rock. I couldn't do this with out him.
Sunday, December 20th
It's 12:44am and the pain--it's paralyzing. I try to think of it as waves like Ina May describes in her books. Once I hit the peak I know I can smoothly sail towards the place of rest in between. The rushes are coming every 10 minutes, but I wish that they were closer so that I could know the end is near. Jack is asleep so it's just me awake. I've been trying to sleep in between, but I'm afraid that I'll get so weary that I won't record the rushes. I can understand why it's so easy to give in to the pain and opt out of it, but I also see the beauty of fully experiencing each wave. I know my body is working hard to get him earth side and that the pain is only temporary. I see the pain as Goliath and I picture my body as David. I won't give into the fear of this big scary painful thing ahead of me--I will fight with all that I am and I will gather up my precious prize at the end. It helps to sing through the pain to worship God the creator of this body and our precious son's.
The hours seem to melt away as I get lost within the pain. The pain is fierce, but so am I. It feels like a thousand daggers stabbing me, but with deep breaths, the caress of my husband's warm hand, and his words of empowerment I barrel through. It's 6:40am and I've been dozing off between each rush which are now down to 5-6 minutes. I'm working towards this beautiful goal--the birth of my child. I just need to keep laboring until they're 2 minutes between until I can go back to the hospital. I'm hungry and my heart is set on waffles. The sun is beginning to peek out behind the dewey earth. I am officially 40 weeks pregnant and today, I hope, will be the day of my son's birth!
The pain increasingly became worse. I spent the majority of time laboring in the bath tub until the water went cold and I would fill it up again with warm water. I began making deep groaning noises to help me pull through each one. At this point, I had hardly slept in the past 24 hours but I still felt strong enough to pull through. My body seemed to hit a plateau with the contractions. They were stuck at 3-5 minutes between each and weren't consistent enough for me to go into the hospital again. I knew Jack was tired and overwhelmed because there wasn't much that he could do for me as I worked through the pain so I asked him to go pick up Subway for lunch so that I could be left alone to breath through the continuing rushes.
As soon as he left, I began to weep. I was scared to be alone-- I was scared that the pain wouldn't end and that I would stuck refilling the tub with no indefinite end. I called my mom and cried. In that moment, I felt as if I needed her. I needed her comfort and her encouragement to pull through. When Jack returned home, he helped me out of the bath and we ate lunch. I knew at this point that if I didn't eat now that my body wouldn't have the energy to keep pushing through. I tried to take a nap, but the inconsistent rushes were starting to become even stronger. I felt as if my body was beginning to go into a transition, but they still were 5 minutes a part. I went immediately back into the tub because it was the only place where my body felt a small amount of relief.
Around 3pm, Jack started to get worried. There was still no progress with the timing yet the pain was only getting stronger. We decided to call the hospital to just check in and see what they wanted us to do. They agreed that it had been a very long time and that I needed to be checked. I got dressed and we made our way to Triage. When the resident checked me he said, "Wow! You really have been laboring! You're at 4cm and at a 0 position." They gave us a room and it was really beautiful. The floors were hard wood and the room felt peaceful. Hunter was our nurse and she made sure she stayed with us through out. At this point my contractions were strong, but not unbearable. We knew that this meant that we weren't leaving the hospital without this baby. Dr. Ross came into greet us. She was hopeful that we could have the baby delivered by midnight. She said that she would give me more time to labor and she would be back in an hour to see if there was any progress.
When Dr. Ross returned an hour later I was at 6cm, but with the bulging water bag I was 7cm. She broke my water. It felt like I lost control of my bladder, but the warmth of the water and the small release of pressure felt nice. She said that she expected things to move pretty rapidly from this point and that my contractions would increase in intensity. The pain was strong and I made my way into the shower so that Jack could spray the hot water across my back. The warmth of the water was soothing and Jack never left my side. For two hours, I rocked, swayed, and fought through each pain as he poured the water on me. Hunter came in every 15 minutes with the doppler to check Jackson's heart rate. She climbed in the shower with me and held me. She swayed with me side to side as I reached the peak of several contractions. Her and Jack told me how strong I was. She would grab my cheeks and press her forehead against mine and remind me to breath. By this time, I had dropped the groaning and fully focused on taking deep breaths in my nose and breathing out of my mouth. I could no longer hold conversations at this point.
Jack helped me out of the shower and I buckled at my knees with pain. I got down on all fours and for the first time since we arrived at the hospital I cried. I couldn't move. The pain had me paralyzed. Hunter and Jack helped me back up in between the contractions. Jack grabbed my forearms and we swayed until I could make it back to the bed. Dr. Ross came in to check on me. I had finally reached 8cm on the verge of 9cm. The pain was so intense that each contraction would take my breath away. I was down to 1 minute between each contraction. Dr. Ross said that if I wanted an epideral now would be the time to take it. I contemplated it and even though it hurt tremendously I chose not to take it. The thought of holding still for an IV, waiting 30 minutes to be hydrated with fluids, and sitting still for the anesthesiologist sounded like to much to deal with. I clenched my teeth and collapsed into Jack's arms as each one hit me like a giant crashing wave. He would rock me and tell me how proud of me he was. He would tell me how strong I was and that we were almost there.
I started to feel the sensation to push. It became almost unbearable to not push. I begged Hunter to bring Dr. Ross back and check me. I was sure that I had progressed and was in transition. She came back in and I had only progressed to 9cm, but she said if I felt like I needed to push to try. I could no longer work through the pain and I asked Hunter to turn on the Nitrous Oxide/oxygen so I could breath it in through each wave. Everyone began to sound so distant and fuzzy. I could still feel each contraction and all of it's intensity, but with each breath of the nitrous I was able to float away in my mind and find a better focus to work through them.
I no longer had breaks between the contractions. I was ready to push. Dr. Ross came in and I began to push. Finally in my mind, this baby would surely be here very soon and the pain would be coming to an end. I pushed for an hour. Dr. Ross said that I had a cervical lip that was stopping the baby from making it's way down. She pushed against and I pushed. The cervical lip was no longer in the way, but Jackson wasn't making his way down. I switched to a squatting position, but the pain was so intense that I collapsed. I held tightly on the the top of the bed and tried to use gravity to help me, but Jackson still had not moved. I decided to use the squat bar with the sheet tied around it. I would be hit with a wave, push with all of my might, breathing deeply, holding my breath as I counted from 10, and collapse breathing in the nitrous to help pull me through. The pain became unbearable. I had been pushing for two hours and there was still no progress. Dr. Ross determined that Jackson was sunny side up. She mentioned that it might be time to start considering a cesarean.
I knew in my mind that I had made every attempt at a natural non-medicated birth. I had spent 40 hours laboring, 2 intense hours of pushing, and gave it all that I could. I felt as if the pain lasted any longer I would die. I prayed God would take away the pain and I prayed that He would help me get Jackson out, but I also knew that my body was tired and I could not take much more. I begged Dr. Ross for the cesarean. She encouraged me to try for just a little bit longer because she didn't want me to regret giving in. I wanted to give in--I felt as if I was drowning in the pain and the only thing that made the pain disappear for only a moment was the pushing. I knew that all of the pushing I was doing was in vain, though. Finally after 40 minutes, the anesthesiologist walked in he tried to talk to me about the spinal block but his words got lost within the pain and I signed paper work with all of the energy I had left.
Monday, December 21st
I remember them handing Jack his outfit for surgery, the feeling of fear laying dormant in the back of my mind but creeping up in between each push, a small feeling of loss for not being capable of birthing him on my own, sadness for the scar that was about to be a part of me forever, and relief knowing that this pain would soon end. It all becomes flashes of sounds in my mind ( I was too afraid to open my eyes as I was rolled into the operating room). I could feel the temperature drop, the air smelled sterile, bright lights flickered behind my eye lids, and the pain was pulsing through every part of my body. They sat me on the edge of the table and my new nurse Kristen grabbed my face, wiped off my tears and whispered that I was so very strong. She held me as they forced me into a slouched position and told me that soon the pain would end. I had three major surges of waves hit as the resident poked around my spine three times. I started to scream--I could no longer take the pain and holding still wasn't an option any more, but then my feet and legs began to tingle. I went numb and collapsed into the anesthesiologists arms and at last I felt relief. I began to panic as they strapped my arms down-- "Where was my husband? Please don't make me do this without him." The dormant fear roared inside of me. I was shaking uncontrollably and finally Jack walked in and I felt brave enough to open my eyes. I felt safe with him by my side. Time had no meaning and within a moment we heard Jackson's sweet cry.
"Does he have hair?" I asked. "I made him!" "Yes, you did Brittany! You did such a great job." said Dr. Ross. Finally it was finished and Kristen ran up to Jack and asked him for his phone. She came back instantly with pictures of him. He was beautiful--more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. We cried. They handed him to Jack and he brought him close to my face. Jackson was warm, red, and swollen, but he was perfect. I wanted to hold him, but my heart melted as I watched Jack fall in love with him. Everything blurs together from here, but I can remember the recovery room and them placing Jackson on my chest for the first time. Kristen helped him latch to my breast and my world changed in an instant. This is the work of nine long months--a manifestation of the love between my husband and I. It was 2am and Jackson and I fell asleep snuggled together.
They wheeled me up to my postpartum room. It was 5am and we had a view of the city lights. I was so tired, but I couldn't stop staring at our beautiful boy. I laid there and watched his swaddled chest rise and fall and then I looked at my husband resting peacefully and I thanked God for all that He has given me. My eyes became heavy, and finally, after 43 hours of strenuous work, I fell asleep.
Our morning started out so peacefully. I taught Jack how to change his first diaper, I nursed Jackson for an hour, and we rested as a family. But within a matter of an instant everything changed. At 8:50am a pediatrician walked in. We had still yet to choose a pediatrician, but this particular one was on call and she made her rounds into our room. I had Jackson sleeping partially naked up against my bare chest. She walked in and introduced herself. She wanted to check on Jackson to see how he was adjusting to life outside the womb. Her hands were cold, her stethoscope was cold, and her touch startled Jackson. He began jerk out of his sleep. It was nothing out of the ordinary. It looked as though he had the dream as if he was falling and was startled awake. He made two big jerks and she pulled him off my chest and placed him the bassinet. She immediately started pulling on his arms trying to check his reflexes and she said that what she saw was probably nothing, but she seemed interested in it none the less. Jackson came back to my chest and the pediatrician left.
Jack asked to do skin-to-skin time with Jackson and I took this opportunity to finally take a nice long shower. When I finished getting cleaned up the nurses came in to take Jackson for observation in the nursery. The pediatrician was worried with what she saw and just wanted to make sure that another "episode" wouldn't happen again. Jack left to go check on Pip at home, grab a few things, and take a shower. I laid in bed engorged and worried about Jackson. It had been 3 hours since he had eaten and I wanted him back in our room. I received a call from the pediatrician. She said that she still was feeling concerned about what she saw and she wanted Jackson to be taken down to the NICU for 6 more hours of observation. I immediately began crying. What was wrong with my baby? Her words blurred together mostly until she said seizure. I was alone, scared, and worried about our son. I called for my nurse and explained to her the phone call that I had with the pediatrician. The nurse had no idea that she had made plans to put Jackson in the NICU. I begged the nurse to get Jackson from the nursery and bring him to me so that I could feed him before they took him away. I was distraught and I called Jack to come back as quickly as he could.
I fed Jackson and then they took him away. They didn't wait for Jack to return. They just wheeled him away and I cried. When Jack walked into the room we both had a million questions that were left without answer. Three hours later the pediatrician, the head of the NICU, and our nurses came in our room and they asked everyone to take a seat. Why the formality? What were they about to tell us? Was Jackson okay? My mind couldn't focus. The head of the NICU explained although he believed that what Jackson experienced was totally normal they wanted to take extra precautionary measures and do four major tests on him. They explained that they would be doing a spinal tap, an MRI, blood tests, and an EEG for 24-hours. Jackson would not being coming back to us--he would be staying in the NICU. We didn't quite understand how we should respond, we felt naive and deferential, scared for our son, and we felt as if there weren't options. The testing seemed excessive, especially since the head of the NICU said it was most likely nothing to worry about. We asked when we would get to see him and they told us not for another 3 hours. At this point Jackson had not eaten for over 6 hours.
They began the testing immediately. When we were finally able to see him they had him inside an incubator as they wheeled him for the MRI. He had 15 different blood tests and needles poked into him, an IV port at the top of his head, and the EEG sensors covering every inch of his head. He was only in a diaper, laid out upon a table, dehydrated, and under a warmer. I begged them to let me nurse him and they said that I couldn't hold him because of the sensors, but that I could pump and give him a bottle or they could give him formula. The last thing that I wanted on top of all of this was for Jackson to be given formula. I wanted him to have my milk, I didn't want him exposed to a bottle, or even a pacifier yet, but there he was given both. It broke our hearts to see him in that condition. He looked dead and undignified as he slept connected to all of those sensor machines. They told us that he was going to be administered 4 rounds of antibiotics through the port in his head. It all seemed gratuitous. After hours of observations and testing everything was coming up completely normal. There was not one test that came back out of the ordinary. In my mother's heart, I knew that my son was healthy and what that pediatrician saw was merely just a startle from a sleeping baby. Her overreaction of that startle led to many painful tests, bruises, and emotional scars on us as parents. We felt helpless. We wanted our baby, but we were tired, anxious, and unable to process the situation as new parents. There were alternatives, but we didn't know that.
They told us that he would need to be observed for over 24 hours, under the warmer, hooked up to electrodes that monitored his brain waves, and that he would be recorded on video. We spent a lot of time in the NICU with him. I would stand there until my feet and legs were swollen and my breasts were engorged and with sinking hearts we would head alone up to our room so I could pump milk for Jackson and we could eat.
I received a call at 11pm from the NICU saying that I wasn't making enough milk for Jackson and that they were going to have to supplement with formula. I told them not to and that I would pump every two hours through the night and bring it to them. I felt like this was the only control I had over the situation and that it was the only say that I had for my son. I stayed up through the night, prayed, pumped, and made plenty of milk for him.
All of the results were still completely normal, but they wanted to extend Jackson's time in the NICU. We had reached a breaking point. Jack's mom had already been flying from Arizona, and when she arrived, she went straight to the NICU with Jack and requested to speak to the doctor. After learning about all of the tests that had been conducted and their results, she asked him what it would take to get Jackson out of the NICU. After the doctor seemed unwilling to discharge Jackson, Jack's mom looked at Jack and said, "Jack, if you want him out, then it's ultimately your choice." In agreement, Jack asserted that he wanted Jackson out, that if, after multiple hours of observation and tests that confirmed that Jackson was not experiencing any epileptic episodes, then it was reasonable to request that Jackson be discharged from the NICU. The doctor conceded and offered the compromise that Jackson would be disconnected from the EEG after 3 more hours (which completes the 24 hour evaluation process), that they would remove the IV port from his head, be brought up to our room, and be given his last dose of antibiotics by a shot in the morning. After an emotional 24 hours of hell, we finally would be getting Jackson back. The poor babe was covered in bruises from all of the IV's and blood draws. We felt as if we could breathe again.
At 1am on Thursday, December 24th my nurse wheeled my son back into our room. Our hearts could finally rest. Out of every test and all of the monitoring everything came back showing that Jackson was a completely healthy baby. Due to taking Jackson out of the NICU early, we had several doctors (a pediatrician and two neurologists) and the manager over labor and delivery come to visit us. (We had filed a complaint with the manager of labor and delivery) They explained all of the test results and we were finally able to address the questions that had gone unanswered.
Our experience left us bruised and broken, but in the end at least we discovered that our son was healthy and thriving. Jackson endured a lot of pain in his first few days of life. It is something that I never want to experience again in that way.
Late on a warm and misty Christmas Eve, we packed all of our things, learned how to strap Jackson in his car seat, and drove home as we played Christmas music on the radio. It was magical and a memory I'll never be able to forget. Life was beginning for us-- I mean we already had a life together as two, but now life was starting over for us in a new meaningful way. We endured more together in those 4 days to change us for a lifetime. Our love grew, our family grew, and a new adventure had begun.
Jackson Phillip 7lbs 15ou 21 inches born on Monday, December 21st