This past week I have been terrified, overjoyed, exhausted, sad, intrigued, present, absent, enamored, overwhelmed and grossed out. But most of all, I have loved and been loved. In the last seven days I have:
- Witnessed three new lives
- Witnessed a death
- Held my newborn child
- Changed many bed pans
- Seen incredible technology
- Wept for joy and for fear
- Had my entire life change
Day 1: Sunday May 19th
My wife is 1 day short of being 29 weeks pregnant. A full pregnancy term is 40 weeks. She woke up with blood similar to the horse head scene in Godfather. We immediately rushed to the hospital. Upon inspection by the Doctor, we learned that her water had broken, she was 4 cm dialated and the baby, Abigail, was breach.
We live in Wilkesboro, a small town, not a tiny town, but this meant that the hospital was not equipped with a NICU to care for premature babies. So, Heather was loaded up on a stretcher and rushed to an ambulance that would take her to Winston Salem which is normally a 50 minute drive. Winston is home of Forsyth Medical Center, the best hospital in the world in my opinion. I used to say Watauga Medical Center was the best, but that was only because my dad works there. Watauga doesn’t have a NICU either so in my opinion it is no longer eligible for my best hospital in the world award.
While Heather is being rushed away in the ambulance, I was left wondering if I was able to concentrate enough to drive myself there. I thought about calling someone, but in stressful situations I trust my ability to manage emotion better than pretty much anyone I know besides my dad. He wasn’t close by, so I drove myself.
On the way, my mind raced. I did not know what I was going to find when I arrived at Forsyth. Would the baby make it? Would my wife make it? I didn’t know.
Before I left, I had texted Heather’s and my family. When I was near Winston, my mother-in-law called having just got the news. She, for some reason had not read my texts, she had just seen a missed call. I began telling her very briefly that Heather was being taken to Forsyth and had gone into labor. She asked me, “have they been able to stop it?” I immediately choked and tears filled my eyes as I barely could say, “I don’t know.” I couldn’t talk anymore and without saying anything else, I hung up.
I then realized I had missed the exit. It took me forever to turn around and get to the hospital. When I finally got there, I drove around like a chicken with my head cut off until I found a place I could park in the parking deck. Somehow, I managed to park in the farthest corner of the deck. Not knowing where to go, I began running towards the stairs. I went up before I realized that maybe I should have gone down. I finally figured out the correct floor and sprinted through the parking deck to the entrance. I found a desk and asked where I could find my wife who had gone into labor and was transferred from Wilkes. The nice lady directed me to the elevators to the 4th floor where I came to another desk for Labor and Delivery. The nice lady there walked me to Heather’s room. I thought she was walking way too slow.
When I opened the door, I saw half a dozen nurses and doctors in scrubs surrounding the bed. Heather’s legs were in the air and I thought the baby was coming. In turned out they were just taking swabs, checking other stuff, taking blood, etc. They had determined that miraculously the baby had moved to a vertex position instead of breach. This was great news because it meant that a C section may not be necessary anymore.
A few minutes later they left. Someone explained to me that they had started Heather on medication through her IV and shots. She had received steroids to help Abby’s lungs to develop, Sulfate Magnesium to help Abby’s brain and to help slow contractions, and a myriad of other stuff.
Heather’s contractions began to slow, and we were told this could go on for up to 5 weeks which would be the ideal scenario. After 5 weeks, Heather would be 34 weeks pregnant and they would need to induce delivery to avoid infection. They said, they baby may come any time though. We will just have to monitor her very closely, keep her on medications, and possibly let her out of bed if labor slows or stops.
Heather’s family came and we spent the rest of the evening together before they left. I stayed at the hospital and maybe slept 20 minutes. Heather had it worse than me of course.
Day 2: Monday May 20th
This day was simply more of the same. Heather was in bed, on an IV with Magnesium Sulfate, antibiotics, and other fluids. The main thing I remember about this day is that our nurses were awesome and took great care of Heather. Our family and I remained anxious all day as contractions were remaining slow but know that the baby could come anytime. We were hoping they would move Heather down the hall to the High Risk Maternity Ward where Heather could get out of bed and actually use the restroom on her own. That didn’t happen…
Day 3: Tuesday May 21st
At midnight Heather began having intense contractions close together. They checked her dilation and it had increased to 6 cm. They put her back on Magnesium Sulfate. They had taken her off of it several hours before after her blood test showed she had had enough. This time, the doctor told us the baby was eminent. The Magnesium Sulfate, however, slowed Heather’s contractions again. The rest of Tuesday went by very slowly as we all waited on edge, but nothing happened.
I did, however, get to overhear the room next to ours through the wall. Twice there were women who came in and gave birth. It was very interesting to here the screams and then finally a baby crying. One lady at 1 cm dilation was screaming at her loudest that the pain was a 10. Heather was 6 cm dilated and said her pain was a 2. The doctors said many times that Heather has a high threshold for pain.
Day 4: Wednesday May 22nd – Abigail’s Birthday
The early hours of the morning went similar to the night before. They had taken Heather off of the Magnesium Sulfate due to her blood test and she began having more intense contractions. This was an absolute miserable night for Heather. I had actually fallen asleep for an hour or two as Heather drove a nurse crazy trying to soothe her. I don’t blame her. For days Heather had not been able to get comfortable with all kinds of monitors connected to her arms and belly. The nurse gave Heather some medicine to try to help her sleep and this is when I woke up.
Heather would fall asleep and then start having a contraction. She would wake up confused as to what was happening during her contraction. She would fall asleep as soon as the contraction was over and wake up again 2 minutes later when the next contraction started. This went on for hours until the doctor came in to check her around 6 am.
The doctor determined Heather was 8 cm dilated and told Heather this was the time to get an epidural. Heather said all was good but the nurse came in after and asked Heather if she was sure. Heather had me call my dad to confirm it was ok to have an epidural. Being an anesthesiologist, he quickly determined it was and so she got an epidural.
She quickly fell asleep after the epidural sleeping for 4 hours through intense contractions. At about 10 am the doctors came in to check and quickly determined it was time. Heather woke up and gave birth with three great pushes. Abby came out crying and that was the most beautiful noise I have ever heard.
The scene was incredible with 15-20 nurses in doctors in the room. I have never seen so many scissors in my life. All eyes were on Heather and as soon as the baby was born everyone sprung into action. Abby was quickly tended to, cleaned up, and vitals checked. She came out screaming which was a delight to everyone in the room. A doctor had me carry her over to Heather who got to briefly hold her before they rushed her away to the NICU.
After a few minutes, I wend out to tell the family. My mother-in-law had been in the delivery room with us taking pictures. So everyone in the waiting room had received pictures and already knew what had happened. Even so, when I walked in all eyes were on me. They asked me how they were. I said, “they are both good.” I couldn’t say anymore. I started crying from relief. I sat down in a chair and wept. The crisis was over.
After the Delivery
About an hour after delivery Heather and I were taken to see Abby in the NICU. She is amazing! We got to briefly hold her. Incredibly she was breathing on her own. She’s a trooper.
We were told that Abby would be in the NICU until her due date, August 5th, 11 weeks away. I’m sure this news was hard to hear for my wife. As a mom, she wanted to take her baby home. Looking at Abby’s size and fragility, I completely understood this prognosis. Even so, it was hard news to swallow.
The next two days in the hospital went by in a blur. It seemed like every minute we had something to do. Go to see Abby, go back to the room to pump, talk to nurses and doctors, get some food, pump again, go see Abby, pump again, etc.
On Friday, we got to come home in the evening. We came home wit a lot of emotion to a wonderful welcome of a clean house (thanks mom), a ton of groceries, pink balloons, and to a comfy bed.
On Saturday, I mowed the yard and we returned to the hospital to see Abby. Unfortunately, her cubby mate was not doing well. The NICU is set up in cubbies which are rooms with only 3 of four walls. In each cubby there are two babies assigned to one nurse. When we arrived, doctors and nurses surrounded Abby’s cubby mate. They put up a curtain but we could hear everything. Heather and I prayed for this baby and then I had Heather leave the room as a nurse called the parents of the baby. The nurse told them the baby had taken a turn for the worse and to come quick so they could say their goodbyes. A few minutes later another nurse made a call to let the parents know it was too late.
As this was happening I was looking at my daughter lying in a incubator weighing a little over two pounds. It could have been Abby on the other side of the room. It is hard to express the feelings I had and still have, but I’m certainly scared. One thing is for sure, my wife and I are very scared of seeing an unknown number calling our phones right now.
Things That Struck Me
God is amazing. We felt his presence throughout the week. Many people prayed for us and He came through.
People blew me away this week. First of all, my wife and daughter are amazing. I love them so much. I can’t imagine losing either of them. Secondly, people were amazing to us this week. It seemed like everyone we know and even strangers were praying for us. Our family helped us so much and were so supportive. The nurses and doctors at Forsyth were incredible. We had many friends send us sweet messages encouraging and congratulating us. And thankfully my work, Inca Link, let me get away so I could focus on everything going on at the hospital. Our newest team member, Luanne Wild (Sponsorship Coordinator), was extremely helpful to me this week helping to decrease my work load.
Technology impressed me this week. The medical technology of today is incredible. But when I stood there looking at Abby in her incubator with dozens of tubes and machines all around her, my mind was blown. Yes the medical bill will be hundreds of thousands of dollars (sorry Blue Cross & Blue Shield), but the ability to do what they are doing for my baby is incredible and worth any cost. I am very grateful for all of the inventors and medical personal throughout the past decades who are responsible for these accomplishments.
What Happens Next
What I know about what to come is Abby will be in the NICU for a long time having been born 11 weeks early. She, however, is doing great. She is breathing on her own and her body is processing milk. They are continuing to increase how much they feed her through her feeding tube. She will need to continue to grow and eventual learn how to feed from a bottle before she can come home.
We have been told that it is incredibly beneficial for preemies to have large amounts of skin to skin contact with their parents. This is called Kangaroo Care (sorry Koala Bears and Platypuses) and helps to regulate the baby’s temperature and help the baby create a better breathing pattern. So Heather will be spending significant time every day at the hospital. Our family is eager to help drive her there and I’ll be trying to be there as much as I can as well.
Prayer was and will continue to be such a huge part of Abby’s time in the NICU. We have been so blessed by all of you who have prayed for us. We have truly felt your support and God’s presence. From the deepest part of my soul, thank you.
Right now, we are continuing to pray for Abby.
- Pray that she will continue to develop healthily
- Pray that my wife will remain strong in this very difficult time
- Pray for the wonderful doctors and nurses who are taking care of Abby
- Praise God for the blessings He has poured out