"On the day Eli is born, his grandmother holds him up to the window, so that what he hears first are all the places to love: the valley, the river falling down over rocks, the hilltop where blueberries grow. Everyone in Eli's family has a favorite place, and Eli will grow up knowing that no matter where the rest of his life takes him, all the places to love are right here, connected to a way of life that has time for affection and simple pleasures." -All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan
My pregnancy was aging quickly. I watched the 40 week mark come and go with an odd mixture of emotions. At times, I felt that this might be the new me. I was destined to live life with a bulging belly forever and maybe all this baby talk from the doctors was a complete scam. How could my 4th baby stay so snug in there for so long? Cruel.
The kids played outside each day as I watched from our kitchen table. I had become too aware of every ache and pain my body would present to me. Sending constant updates to my husband and anyone else who would listen. Desperate. Desperate for anyone to listen. It became all I could talk about and I lacked the self control to not talk about the pregnancy. I was grateful for the listening ears. So grateful.
The kids found treasure one day. Actually, a little friend made the mistake of showing them where she buried her treasure. Ashton assured me that she "didn't mind."
Josh teaching Josie to ride without training wheels. She's getting there!
The day came. The 41 week mark I had declared "impossible" to make it to. April fools day.
I brought the kids to the playground to meet up with the Irvine girls. Ready to run around the ball field if I had to. I was a crazy pregnant woman. Done.
They found mud.
I had to strip the kids down to their underpants for the ride home that day. I carried them each in the house with my coat as a blanket, bathed them, threw their clothes in the wash and laid them each down for an afternoon nap. I was sure that had to shake things up just enough to get the baby moving. Right?
Another night without Eli.
The next morning, I had an appointment to talk about induction. The doctor decided to send me to the hospital at 5 p.m. to begin a medicine called Cervidil that would allow my cervix to soften overnight as I slept. It wouldn't be until the next morning (after I showered and put on a new gown) that they'd start the Pitocin. Ready and excited to get things moving, we quickly came home and gave the kids a quick pizza lunch. I had my brother snap one last picture of our family of 5.
Ready or not.... there they go.
I waved goodbye to the kids. Trying to fight back the tears that I didn't expect to fall. As I picked up their little plates, my heart felt sad. I missed them already. I felt bad for having them go. The plan was for me to take a quick nap before we headed up to the hospital but my brain was in constant motion at this point. I laid in bed and felt overheated with the sun pouring through the window.
Josh returned home to lay down for a little while and before we knew it, it was time to go. Time flew by that afternoon. I remember looking at my belly one last time as I passed the body length mirror. Knowing my reflection would look different the next time I passed by. A simple moment I'll never forget. I told myself not to cry as we locked the door and walked down our front steps.
Arriving to the hospital, I felt nervous. I didn't feel strong enough mentally this time for the pain I knew that was to come.
After papers, papers and more papers, we arrived in delivery room 6. I found it funny that 6 years after having our first child, we were arriving in delivery room 6 to have, what we believe, will be our last baby. They hooked me up to the monitors and inserted the Cervidil around 7 p.m.
It wasn't long and I started contracting regularly. I didn't think much of it as they started off fairly light and tolerable. I figured it was all apart of the process.
Soon, the "fairly light and tolerable" turned into excruciating pain. I watched the monitors as the contractions came 1 to 2 minutes apart. I started to panic as I looked at the clock and thought about the hours that could go by before they started the Pitocin. It felt as if I was in real labor but my mind convinced me it was just the medicine. I couldn't possibly be in real labor yet.
Eventually, we called in the nurse and resident to have them check me. All of this pain had to bring some sort of progress. "2 centimeters" the nurse said. "I could probablyyyy stretch you to a 3."
I asked if there was anyway we could take the Cervidil out so I could get some rest before the morning came and we started the Pitocin. I couldn't bare to think of being in this much pain all night. Having no sleep before "real" labor began. The nurse checked with the doctor and he said to leave it in. "Sounds like it's working!" He said.
Suddenly. I hated the doctor. I hated him. I grabbed the rail of that awful bed and hated him.
I looked at Josh and whispered, "I don't think I can do this. I don't know if I have just gotten weaker or I'm not mentally as strong. I just know I can't do this all night."
I began having Josh push as hard as he could on my left hip and lower back with every contraction. I am not so sure it really helped physically but mentally, it was pain relief. It wasn't too much longer that I felt the need to use the bathroom. I had been drinking so much water, I felt like I had to get up every ten minutes. After I went this time though, it was different. My body began pushing right as I stood up. Still in denial I thought, well. at least this feels a lot better. Maybe I could keep this pushing stuff up and the pain would at least be a bit more tolerable. As my body began to push harder and harder, I quickly tip toed around the room. Looking at Josh, I remember telling him to help me. I remember feeling peace when his hand softly touched my arm. I remember telling him I wasn't sure if I had just peed on the floor or if it was my water that broke. I remember not caring what it was. I told him my body was pushing and he yelled for the doctor.
I began humming Eli's song. Trying to stay calm.
And if the breeze won't blow your way, I will be the sun
And if the sun won't shine your way, I will be the rain
And if the rain won't wash away all your aches and pains
I will find some other way to tell you you're okay.
I was trying not to panic, panicking. When the doctor arrived, he told me to lay down in the bed to be checked. At this point I was thinking, IMPOSSIBLE! IS HE CRAZY?! NO WAY WILL I DO THAT! I CAN'T LAY DOWN!!!
I did. I laid down and he quickly checked me. "anddddddd.... you are fully dilated" he said.
I started yelling, "I'M PUSHING! MY BODY IS PUSHING!" More panic. I didn't want to do this. It was so impossibly hard. It hurt and I was scared to go through this part again. I remember Josh telling me to look at him. Look at him in the eyes and think of the other kids, he said. He brought me back. He brought me back into that room and kept me focused. It was time to meet Eli. The doctor, resident and nurses rushed to get themselves ready.
Nine minutes of impossible, hard, terrible pushing went by when at last...
There he was. Our fashionably late Eli Grayson. Beautiful Eli Grayson. What an amazing love. He nursed within 3 minutes of his birth. He laid on me for the first hour of his life. Josh cut the cord. We were two.
11:10 p.m. 9 lbs 10.7 ounces. 22 1/2 inches long. My largest baby yet. My heart, full.
We packed up our bags after our short stay in labor and delivery and headed to the mother-baby unit.
A lot can happen in just 4 hours. Wow.
He was given his first bath around 2 a.m. I was wide awake and happy. My adrenaline was at an ultimate high. I had just given birth and felt great. I can stay awake for days! I thought. Super woman.
The next day was pretty pleasant. I was happy to read all the text messages I received as soon as everyone awoke in the morning and heard the news. We talked to the kids and told them about their new baby brother, born in the night. My sister visited and bought us pizza for lunch. My friend Julia stopped by with an awesome mommy care package and our friends Aimee and Claude stopped by after dinner. It had been a sunny day, I was able to shower, the baby was nursing well and everything just seemed so right. I avoided thinking about the fact that I still had not gotten any sleep since Tuesday night. This time was precious and I had plenty of time to sleep once we were home.
By 11:00 that night, my eyes were getting very heavy. I suddenly realized that another night with no sleep would be very difficult. Especially if we were being discharged in the morning and I had to come home to care for 3 other children. Eli had been alive for 24 hours now and began cluster feeding. He'd nurse from one side to the next, one side to the next. I sat up in bed and gazed at the television. Staring at an old episode of George Lopez. How would I survive another night with no sleep? The bed was beginning to feel harder and I was beginning to feel more and more uncomfortable. I was in pain. I was exhausted.
I watched the time slowly move on the clock. Wondering when the nurse would come in again to check on us. Hoping she wouldn't catch me if I decided to close my eyes for just one second while nursing the baby. If I could just get five minutes of sleep, everything would be much better.
I tried to get up to use the bathroom and Eli would scream to nurse. He was only happy nursing by this point. I want to go home. I need to go home. It was all I could think about. I needed my own bed.
Morning came and I didn't feel human anymore. Dazed, I started organizing our things and feeling incredibly anxious for discharge. During all of this, the pediatrician and nurses had come in and out to run the typical tests and screenings they usually do on newborns. I didn't think anything of it.
It was when the pediatrician came in and told us we wouldn't be discharged until Saturday that got me. I had labored so quickly, I didn't get the antibiotics I needed before I delivered Eli. Typically, women who test positive for strep b are placed on antibiotics 2 hours before delivery. "I know you're probably not too happy about that news." She said.
I started to cry. Ready to walk out of the hospital with my baby. I was sleep deprived and furious.
Before she left, the pediatrician said she'd call us about one of the heart tests they ran on Eli. Again. I didn't think much of it. They typically do this. I sat and cried as I nursed my new baby. Waiting for the doctor to call us back.
While we waited, Josh put Eli in his first onesie from home. That made me feel a little better with a side of, "I'm walking out of this darn hospital... they can't keep us captive! I am not a prisoner!"
The phone rang. I asked Josh to pick it up. His voice sounded normal. Things sounded good. It wasn't until he hung up, that he broke into full blown, hysterical tears.
Horrified, I yelled in hysterics, "WHAT?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM?!" I still remember his sobs. I still remember the sound of my hysterical voice and tears.
"He has a heart defect. They are transferring him to the NICU at Crouse and we might have to go to Rochester."
We broke down. Badly. Our sobbing echoed through out the room. A nurse came running in. This was mostly a blur. She tried to describe what was wrong with Eli's heart. I remember the look in her eyes as she stood touching Josh's shoulder. I remember asking if my baby could die from this. I remember her telling me to give Eli a kiss. She took him away and I ran in the bathroom to ready myself for discharge.
I called my mother while I was in the bathroom and so much air left my lungs, it was hard to breathe. I remember walking out to a line of doctors, silently waiting for me. They must have been listening all along, I thought. I slowly lifted my head up as a pathetic attempt to make eye contact and the head doctor began talking about a Coarctation of the aorta and emergency surgery. He had a paper and he tried to describe everything to us. It was treatable. I held on to those words. This had to be a dream.
We signed some more papers and they told us to come in to the NICU to say goodbye. Goodbye? I thought. I watched as they pulled off the onesie we had put him in just minutes before and they gave me permission to kiss him goodbye. I looked back at Josh, also still in tears, hesitant to get too close to his boy. It was hard to say goodbye. Josh didn't have to tell me. I knew. "It's ok, honey. Give him a kiss goodbye. It's ok." I held on to his side and we walked out.
Watching from across the hall, we saw them place our baby in an incubator and ready him for the ambulance ride over to Crouse. That hurt the most. My heart was dying. I watched as they took him away.
They discharged me as quickly as possible. The lactation consultant gave me an electric pump to rent for the month and 5 minutes of the best advice she could give me for the hurry. I remember a nurse running in with a large tray of food. Telling me I had to eat. Asking me what sandwiches we'd like, then suddenly pouring all the sandwiches, chips, juices and cookies in a large garbage-like bag. I remember crying in her arms and thanking her for her kindness. She hugged me so tight and didn't let go even after I did. She told me they'd be praying for us.
I was wheeled down to the front door with nothing but a garbage bag of food and a couple of gift bags. Josh had walked an empty car seat to the van. I hugged the nurse who wheeled me down and again, I was told we were being prayed for.
Upon arriving to Crouse, Josh and I tried to contain ourselves as best as we could before walking in. We cried while eating a sandwich. I reminded him of the word treatable as much as I could. I grabbed his hand. We walked in.
When we arrived to the NICU, we were told to wait in the waiting room as they were putting more lines in his belly button. They told us a valve in his heart was already starting to look smaller than it was that morning.
In the waiting room, I debated on laying on the tiled floor. If I could just have ten minutes of sleep, maybe I could think more clearly about all of this and last another night. An old cowboy movie was playing on the television and I sensed people trying not to stare at me. I tried to close my eyes while sitting up. The outlet on the wall was moving.
After an agonizingly long wait, we were told we could come in. A long, dark NICU with over a hundred babies, it seemed. Eli was on nursery floor A. Where the "sickest babies go" the nurse told us.
They had a bright light shining on him. Wires were all around. I couldn't touch him she said. He was so hard to look at. So much, I told myself to look away. I couldn't. We tried not to cry and failed at our attempts. I couldn't hear the nurse and I couldn't see clearly. It made me nauseous to look at anything for more than 5 seconds. I felt dizzy as I sat on the stool chair that was just high enough to be level to his little square bed. She asked me if I was ok. She told me I looked hot and pale. She hugged me and said she was taking good care of our baby. That he'd be ok but I needed to go home and get some rest."We don't treat adults here!" She said. She slowly walked us to the elevators and sent me home with some empty milk bottles and more hugs. She handed me off to Josh and told him to hold me up on our way down.
When we arrived home around 5:00 p.m., Josh and I laid down. 45 minutes later, we received a wake up call from the cardiologist with hopeful news that the Coarc was indeed treatable with surgery. He talked about sending us to Rochester on Monday or Tuesday morning.
Treatable. The word that sang my weary head to sleep that afternoon. We didn't wake up until 7 a.m. the next day.
We woke up ready the next morning. Better prepared for any news that was about to come our way that day. I pumped milk for Eli and we headed to the hospital.
I was able to hold him again. It felt like years had gone by.
We loved his nurse that weekend. She was a short, middle-aged women with black hair. She wasn't afraid to curse on the job and chewed on ice she had stored in a Dunkin Donuts cup all day. She made us feel comfortable. She took the time to get to know to us as we held and rocked our boy.
He had trouble nursing that weekend. He was too tired and medicated to try. I'd lift his limp head in attempt to get him to latch but he wouldn't even open his eyes. He couldn't. Tears ran down my cheeks.
We attempted to give him the milk I had pumped in the bottle and that worked. Thank you, Lord. I was just happy to see him eat.
We'd carefully take turns holding him. Detangling his wires each time he was passed on. Putting miles on the rocking chair. Loving him.
It was especially hard leaving him that Saturday night. We had picked up the kids afterward and piled them into the van. An empty infant car seat sat next to Josie. That hurt. When we came home, I wept in the shower. I had all the signs of a postpartum body but no baby was around to show for it. I pumped every two hours listening to the whir whir of the machine. Sitting in the darkness next to a bassinet that screamed its loneliness.
On Sunday, we received great news! The third scan did not show the Coarc. They ordered another Echocardiogram and EKG for Monday morning to confirm the new, amazing news. The cardiologist and nurses acted surprised. We felt beyond blessed. No surgery.
On Monday, we were planning to leave within the next couple of days.
They removed the wires from his belly button that night.
By Tuesday the 8th, we were told he would be ready to go the next day. We rejoiced! We swore that 8 would always continue to be our lucky number.
Overnight however, his heart rate skyrocketed to 290-300 for minutes at a time. When we came in the next morning, doctors and nurses stood around our baby. A little oxygen mask laid next to him. He looked uncomfortable and moved oddly. His monitor rang loud. We were told to go wait in the waiting room. More tears.
We returned to find Eli with an IV in his head and hand. They needed an IV ready in case he needed emergency heart medicine. They immediately ordered another EKG. His heart rate continued to skyrocket for 20+ minute intervals throughout the day. We were terrified.
We were told he had something called Atrial flutter. ...SVT. The lining in one chamber of his heart was thicker than the rest. He would need medicine to control the SVT.
4 days passed while we watched and waited for the medicine to work and balance. We took pictures. We prayed. We put several more miles on the rocking chair. Each night without him, felt like a hundred.
Finally, our day came. Monday April 14th 2014. ...Ashton was born on a 14th. I called it good luck and laughed at my sentimental way with numbers.
He was tested and scanned. We talked with the cardiologist. They set up appointments. They gave us more information than we could ever remember. We were given two doses of the Digoxin he was prescribed. -(He will need it two times a day, every day for as long as he needs it. It's a mystery right now as to how long it will be).
He even had a 90 minute car seat test where he yawned a bit...
...and slept the rest of the 89 minutes. They do this test simply because he received oxygen during his stay in the NICU and he had been laying down flat most of the time.
I was still in disbelief when the nurse told me we could put on his own clothes. I had them tucked in my purse in a small grocery bag. I didn't bring the diaper bag that day because I didn't want to get my hopes up. I can't tell you how good it felt to finally put that hat on his head. Finally. ...finally.
We had the most wonderful nurse who offered to take our photo once we were officially discharged. One of the happiest moments of my life. I had my baby back.
He was in the van. On his way home.
The kids did not know Eli was coming home that day. We kept the news a surprise.
They loved him right away.
Ashton is so experienced in his big brother role now. It suits him well.
Josie wants to help with every thing. From holding him to diaper changes. She is looking forward to his first real bath.
The whole pregnancy, I believed Liam would be jealous of the new baby. It turns out, he is jealous if I hold the baby for too long because he wants to hold him all the time. It is his baby.
He is home. Right where he should be.
I feel like this experience opened up a piece of my heart that will forever be raw. I'd see the colored glass windows of the children's hospital right across the street from Crouse and suddenly feel a wound that was never there before. I can feel the pain of those parents behind those walls. Watching and waiting for their babies to become healthy. Praying for their day to come home.
We'll forever remember Ava, the 180+ day old that would sit in her crib and kick her feet while she watched Happy Feet all day. The nurses. The rocker. The buzzes and beeps. All the babies & parents. I will forever be praying for the 9th floor of Crouse hospital.
"A lot of babies are born perfectly fine. We just get the special ones." -Our favorite nurse from the first Saturday of Eli's hospital stay.
The special ones. we'll never forget.
Thank you for praying for our boy. Thank you for your love. Rejoicing he is home!