"Some people only dream of angels; we held one in our arms."

Below you will find Austin's story in multiple parts in order to tell the full story of my pregnancy, his birth, funeral and the months following.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Austin's Story: June 17th: The Birth

I was expecting her to come back to send me back to my room…. I wasn’t expecting what happened next. Next thing, I know there were about ten people in the room, shouting orders, in which the loudest was “Get her on a stretcher; get her to the OR.” No one told me what was going on; I immediately started crying, but collected myself. I had to remain strong; I remember thinking that I wanted to tell the nurse that was shouting that she needed to calm down. I remember thinking that she shouldn’t be freaking out, and that she should be the professional. They got me on a stretcher and I felt like a scene out of ER or Grey’s Anatomy. I was being rushed through the hospital and they moved everyone out of the way so that I could get on the elevator. I still had no idea what was going on. I just kept repeating “Am I going to be okay, Am I going to be okay?” At points, I asked, “Am I going to die?” Again, I just thought, I have to hold on for this little one, and maybe if I was going to deliver, he would be okay. After all, this was Fairfax Hospital, with one of the best NICU’s.

With all the chaos, I was becoming more anxious…. What were they freaking out about? How could things have changed that quickly? Why was no one telling me what was happening? As I was being rushed through the hospital, I asked if one of the nurses knew if Carroll Reed was on call. She was a family friend and I knew she worked in Labor and Delivery. I truly believe God was watching out for me on that day because she was at work that morning. She had just gotten there, and I truly believe the day wouldn’t have been the same had it not been for her. As soon as she got down to the Labor and Delivery triage; things calmed down. She took charge, and I will forever be grateful for her leadership and help on that day. Anyway, I was being rushed through the hospital as they demanded an OR, and then I was taken to triage; once again, a waiting game. If it was that urgent, why was I going to triage.

I finally started to get some answers once Carroll calmed the situation. She told me a specialist would be in from the Perinatal unit, and they would explain what was going on. I was so scared, but again, just tried to remain calm. Finally, a doctor came to me and she told me about what was about to happen. She said that my life was in danger, and that the baby would be delivered today. While I had prepared for this moment for what seemed like an eternity, I was so scared and sad. Why couldn’t I just hold on a little longer? I still remained hopeful; maybe he would survive. Maybe he would be that miracle baby I had been longing for. The difference between specialists and my OB is that they tell it to you very bluntly. No longer did I have the sweet doctor that had helped me throughout the past couple of weeks, but I was faced with some brutal facts. She said I would need to deliver; she said that a C-section might be too risky; that I might not be able to bleed correctly, and could have more of a chance of bleeding out. This surprised me, as I thought it would be the opposite; I would bleed more with a vaginal delivery, but I figured I should trust what she said. She said that with a C-section, the baby might have more of a chance to survive, but it would put me at a greater risk. She said I would need to make a decision. I didn’t want to make a decision; I wanted the decision made for me. I didn’t want to have to choose; I grappled with this as Aaron and I took a moment to discuss. Was this abortion? Was I giving this baby every opportunity to live? I really struggled with this? Was my life more important? Of course, I knew my girls and Aaron needed me, but I admit, I felt a slight bit of selfishness for not thinking twice about wanting my own life. I remember asking Carroll, as I knew she was Catholic, and she told me that I couldn’t think like that, and that my life was important. She said that the church would agree with me on this. At this point, I just needed reassurance, and I was just terrified as to what would happen. When she came back, I told her that we would have the vaginal delivery; I don’t think she was going to let me choose a C-section regardless. Little did I know, I would have to make another decision. She informed me about the baby’s chances of survival. She said the future was very grim for this little one and gave me the blunt facts of what would happen to the baby if we chose to rescuitate him. I thank God that I looked at it from a clear perspective, and I looked at it as another “life” situation. I wouldn’t want the baby to be in pain, and I wouldn’t want the baby to live on life support for an indefinite amount of time, with no guarantee as to what the future will hold. The problem with making a decision was that it had to be made quickly and I would have to sign DNR papers; this is where things began to get blurry. I just didn’t want to make a decision; I didn’t want the responsibility. I wanted the doctors to make those decisions for me; I didn’t want to have to deal with it, and just wanted for it to all be over. Oh, if it were only that easy.

After consideration, we signed the DNR papers, but I didn’t realize how often in the next couple of hours, I would change my mind. At around 10:30, I was wheeled to the labor and delivery room, where I would deliver my little angel. I had mixed feelings, as to some extent, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted the unknown to be over. They informed me how it would work, and that they would start my contractions. At this point, I switched doctors, to a male doctor. Let’s just say he didn’t have the best bedside manner, but at this point I didn’t care. He told me that he was going to start inducing me, and I didn’t realize how this was going to work. I assumed he would use pitocin, but instead, he used another drug, in which he inserted rectally. Hmmm, I didn’t realize that he was going there, so that alone freaked me out. Once that was over, I just wanted the pain of the contractions to stop. He then explained that I would have an epidural; I was in all of this pain, and I was still freaking about the epidural. Would if they didn’t get the right spot? Can I do this without the epidural? I finally realized that I was going to be okay and knew the epidural would be fine. I never gripped the nurse harder as I remained as still as possible. This whole situation was just so surreal. I forgot to mention that at this point, I had a young nurse, but the doctor felt it was necessary to have an experienced nurse, thus I had Mary. While I was relieved that I had the experience of someone who had been in the profession for a long time, it also added to the seriousness of the situation.

So here we were again: Waiting. I just wanted it to be over at this point (have I said that enough?) But here I was just trying to relax and think about something else. I remember calling Hayley and just longing to be with the girls. They were happy as could be, and I was grateful for this. It was the last day of preschool for her, and she had her show. She was so pleased that her aunts were going to be there for her. I was so appreciative that they were safe and happy. I missed them so much, and just wanted to make it through this to see them. I also just talked with Aaron and my parents. I was relieved that my mom had come, as she had been there for Hayley and Alyssa’s birth, and she was always eerily calm as she paced the room. My dad was also there, and I was relieved to be with him. I am really close to him, and I knew he was nervous. Every half hour, he would leave the room, little did I know how scared he was. I must say I am grateful for how well everyone hid their fear that day.

Every so often, they would come and check me. I wasn’t dilating as quickly as I thought. I was used to having babies very quickly, so again my impatience was creeping in. I just wanted for this whole nightmare to be over. I had also talked to the neonatologist about my decision for the baby’s life. He answered all of my questions, and was so nice and professional. When I didn’t know what questions to ask or what to do, Carroll would help me and reexplain everything. However, the neonatologist reassured me that he would be present at the birth just to make sure that my decision was the correct one. (Usually if you sign the DNR, the neonatologist doesn’t come.) However, he could see that I was extremely unsure of what I was doing and he realized the impact of the situation, and what a difficult situation it was.

While I was waiting for the delivery, the doctor said that I needed more blood, and I received more blood transfusions in anticipation for the amount of blood I was about to lose as a result of the delivery. This time the blood was rushed to the room and arrived in the cooler. Wow… I definitely didn’t need to see that, and even though I should have been used to transfusions, I was still petrified receiving the transfusions. I received these ones at an extremely fast rate, and within three hours, I received three units. This time, they also hooked up blood warmer; I didn’t care, as the nurse was having a hard time hooking it up. I remember thinking, what is the difference, “cold blood/warm blood,” Just get it in me.

So while I was waiting, there was still a lot going on. At around 2:30, my friend, Marie, happened to come by. She had come to visit me not knowing what was taking place. She worked in the postpartum unit of the hospital, and immediately came to my delivery room. I could tell she was hurting that I was having to go through this, and she held my hand and comforted me. I asked her some questions about it, and she continued to be there for me, and talk to the other nurses. It was a relief to have someone there that I knew for over 15 years in my room. I knew that I was in good hands, having two nurses that had a personal relationship with me. Things moved quickly after Marie arrived and I felt such intense pressure. I had never felt that kind of pressure before, and it was terrible. I thought I was going to explode, and I told Marie that I needed to go. At this point, the doctor wasn’t in there, but she finally told him that he needed to come in. Later on, she told me, that I wasn’t screaming or acting like it was painful, so they didn’t think it was coming…I am just not very emotional when delivering a baby… I just kind of take the pain quietly. Anyway, I distinctly remember it being somewhat chaotic right before the birth. People rushed in, and I remember watching the doctor put on his mask and gown, and it seemed like an eternity… I just remember thinking, could you please hurry up? No sooner had he gotten it on, did everything just come out. I remember thinking that for such a little baby, this shouldn’t be so painful. Boy, was I wrong. As soon as I pushed, everything came out, and as soon as his little head came out, I knew at first glance, that he was just too little. I feel like that was God’s way of telling me that I made the right decision, and that little Austin was destined to be our angel. As soon as he came out, they rushed him to the back room, and I was grateful knowing the neonatologist was there. Immediately after, the doctor pushed on my uterus, and I just remember blood gushing everywhere. It was all over his mask, all over the floor; everywhere. Apparently the bag that holds all of the afterbirth was not clamped down, and the blood was absolutely everywhere. As disgusting as it was; it was somewhat humorous amidst all of the sadness. I remember laughing a little, as it just really showed how crazy the day was…. I mean sorta fitting for the entire day. I remember just asking him, am I okay, is it all out? Did you get everything out? He said in a very confident way that he was sure that the bleed came out completely. I couldn’t believe it; a sense of relief washed over me as I realized that I was okay, I realized that I wasn’t going to die. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of yet another battle I would face.

After they got the vitals of little Austin; they wrapped him and handed him to me. Perfection is how I describe him. Honestly, he was so normal looking. His little face reminded me of Hayley’s, and he truly was an angel. He looked so peaceful and calm, and I just felt so weird the whole time. I was grateful that he looked so normal, but it also was a very surreal feeling, as if he was this perfect, why couldn’t he make it? How does such perfection not survive? Even though I knew deep down he was too little, it was still hard to see him like this. I don’t know what I was expecting; again, I don’t think you could ever prepare yourself for it. At this point, it was just my parents in the room. Aaron was extremely hesitant to hold him, and I was just sitting there sobbing. At one point, I just couldn’t hold him anymore. I remember giving him to my mom or someone else… it was just too hard. At this point, I let some family members know, and they were on their way to the hospital. We didn’t know how to handle it; but we knew that family members would come sometimes, so we felt that we would do that. I was relieved to have some comfort and some people in the room, but I wasn’t really prepared for how hard it would be to see the people that I love in such a horrific situation. How can one ever be prepared? I thank God that the nurses had the wisdom to handle such an awful situation; I mean they were affected too that day, as none of them had joy being in the room. Almost everyone had shed tears, and that made them seem more human and real to me. I thank God that they took pictures, as I didn’t think I wanted the pictures. I didn’t realize how important those would become.

So once family had been called, my siblings and Aaron’s parents arrived. Each and every time someone new came in, the wave of emotions hit, and I just sobbed and sobbed. Each person that came in was crying too, so that didn’t help. I have always been one of those people that cry when I see someone else, and this was definitely no exception. While it was comforting to see my siblings, it was so hard for us all to be gathered at such an intensely emotional time. They all held the baby, and passed him around. It was very weird watching them do this, as I tried to keep composure (which I didn’t.) I remember trying to take my mind off of things by making a joke here or there or trying to ask about something unrelated to the situation. It didn’t work very well. People came in and out, and people left. I was glad that so many people came, but it was also really hard, as I just didn’t know how to react, and I was just so exhausted in general. I was so tired of crying and I ached everywhere. My best friend, Didi, was the last to arrive. She had been there for the other two babies, and it was fitting that she was there for this one. I was so grateful that she came, and I needed to see her so bad. She held him in her arms, and was just so good comforting me. As I said goodbye to Didi, I realized it was already 7:00. I was exhausted, and as Austin was in my arms again, I realized how quickly he was changing. He had started to become bluer, and he seemed to be changing by the minute. I asked everyone to leave the room, so that Aaron and I could be with him. Again, a huge wave of emotion hit as I sobbed my eyes out knowing this would be the last time I would hold him; knowing that this really was the end. I knew that this was the moment that we needed together, and that it was also the time that we needed to let go. As the nurse took him away, I felt a little bit of relief, as I realized that this was such a difficult time, but that I was finally not wondering what was going to happen.

Slowly, some people came back in the room. I didn’t’ know what I wanted; I wanted some of my sisters there, so that when I was transferred to my room, they would be with me. I needed a distraction, and I needed to laugh… I needed something to ease my pain in that moment, and I wanted them there. Little did I know, that it would take two hours to get transferred to my room, and little did I know, that the hospital didn’t take Baby Austin away when I had asked. This was hard, as he was in the back room of the hospital room. I thought that was just temporary, but they didn’t take him out until I almost left the room. This was extremely painful for me, as I felt guilty that I wasn’t in there holding him. Sometimes I feel like I should have been the last to hold him, and yet, it was my mom and sister that saw him last. I try to tell myself that I want to remember him as he was, peaceful and perfect, and I wouldn’t have wanted to see him the way he was when he changed. I had a hard time knowing that he was in there for so long, while I was just feet away from him. I was so annoyed that I was still in the room, and I was so annoyed that they hadn’t taken him away, yet I didn’t say anything. Here I was patient and just waited, like I had gotten used to doing. (See, I never really let anyone know how impatient I was; I never complained or said how I was really feeling, maybe because I didn’t know what I was feeling.) By this point, I was so ready to be in my room that I couldn’t wait to get out of that horrible room. There were still blood stains all over the floor, and I just didn’t want to be in that room, with all those bad memories. Finally, they moved me to my room, and my sister, Melanie & Kim and Tony came to the room.
Here, I was given some Percocet, and I was more than relieved. I needed to not feel anything at this point, and it made me loopy, which I needed. I ate some food, the first of eating in two days, and I was able to get through the next couple of hours without crying. My visitors left and Aaron and I just held each other and talked. I finally got some sleep. I didn’t sleep too long that night; I woke up and was sad, but didn’t cry. I just was so glad to be in my own room, and to be feeling somewhat better from everything that happened.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry Meredith. Austin is such a beautiful little boy, truly perfection. He looks so calm and at peace in your arms. The nurses took some lovely photographs for you.