*this story was written only a few days after all of this happened, I wanted to write it down while the experience was still fresh in my mind and also as a form of therapy.
I guess the story starts with my doctor appointment on Thursday, March 17, 2004. It was the only appointment Kile could not go to. He’d been to every appointment so far but he had a meeting at work that he just could not miss. I had Harry with me, and I remember being a little concerned how I would handle him if they wanted to do an exam or something. But no, no exam. I was seeing Dr. Bannister instead of my regular doctor, Dr. Brown. She was on vacation that week and specifically wanted me to see Dr. Bannister. He was the other faculty doctor and was actually there the night Harry was born. So he knew our situation and he was also more of an OB specialist than any of the other doctors. He wanted to get me in to ultrasound and do the appointment there. He wanted to have a look at some things and he measured my belly and all that while I was there. He specifically looked at fluid levels, placenta, heart, cord…all that stuff. I remember seeing the heart. The ultrasound tech had been kind enough to let Harry help guide the “transponder” or whatever the heck that thing is so he felt he was doing something important. I remember seeing the heart too, all four chambers flapping away. And I was so relieved. I hadn’t felt a lot of movement in the past few days but then, I was having a lot of Braxton Hicks and it was hard to tell what was what. Even though I had an appointment with Dr Jacobs, who was to perform the actual c-section, on Tuesday, Dr. Bannister wanted me to see Dr. Brown again the following Friday. So two appointments in one week!
The weekend was for the three of us. After all, it was the last weekend it was just us. The following Saturday Kile’s parents would be coming and the circus would begin. We went to the mall on Saturday, March 22, 2004 after having a lazy morning. I felt very restless and wanted to be out. We bought a gown for the baby at Children’s Place. Lots of browsing around. Sunday, March 21, 2004 was similar, except we stuck closer to home. I noticed I had some pain on Sunday… almost like gas pain. Not terribly strong and not terribly frequent. Monday, March 22, 2004 was worse. The gas pains, as I thought they were, were more frequent and getting more painful. I started to wonder if maybe they weren’t gas pains at all.
At lunchtime I timed them out and they were roughly ten minutes apart. But still fairly irregular, especially in their intensity. I told Kile about it and he started to pester me about it. But I wasn’t worried. I had a c-section scheduled for a week later. No way would I go into labor early. This was just my body getting ready, if anything. I guess I was in some serious denial.
I remember we watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” that night. Kile timed out my contractions. They weren’t much closer together, a little stronger, but bearable. He was concerned we’d have to go the hospital in the night. I was still in denial. We arranged with my friend that she could come down and stay with Harry if we needed it and Kile’s parents were on the alert to leave Elko at the word. We went to bed at the regular time and thank goodness I was able to fall asleep relatively quickly.
I had a dream.. it was very strange. We lived in a house in a town that I’m not familiar with. But everyone we knew lived there. And one afternoon, I just “lost” Harry. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I was trying not to worry too much about it. I guess there were circumstances where it wasn’t really an emergency yet but I was concerned. I would tell someone that I was looking for Harry and they would almost always say, “I just saw him!” And I can remember wanting to ask, “Why didn’t you grab him?” I was starting to get frantic and I remember when I told Kile he was frantic and we started to search everywhere for him. I felt such a horrible dread in my heart. I woke up in the midst of this dream and felt such a relief when I realized it was just a dream. My boy was sleeping soundly in his room down the hall.
Around 3 I got up to use the restroom and had a contraction. I definitely was not feeling very good. Those contractions were pretty strong. I went back to bed but they didn’t subside. I didn’t want to wake up Kile. I still thought they’d stop. But they were closer together and strong enough that I didn’t have the sense to time them. I forget what finally woke Kile up but he took it dead serious and started to time them. They were about five minutes apart, sometimes closer. We decided we should get out of bed, maybe go out and watch TV a little. This time, getting up just brought them on stronger and quicker. We didn’t watch for long, maybe thirty minutes. I was trying to waste time. It was after four at this point and I wanted to wait until six if I could. Well it became apparent I couldn’t. Kile called the doctor and of course, they wanted us to come in. So we called my friend and woke her up. She was more than happy to come right over. Also called Kile’s parents. Kile took a quick shower and then helped me wash my hair over the side of the tub. We made sure we were all packed up and ready to go. My friend showed up and we woke up Harry.
I went in and gave him a big hug. I told him I was going to the hospital to have Baby Jackson and that later on he could come visit us with Grandma and Grandpa and see the baby. We definitely left the house feeling hopeful and excited. The sky was lightening and traffic was light. I had a contraction while we were on the interstate, passing the casinos downtown. Three minutes later we were turning into the hospital complex and I had another one. I remember there was a speed bump, of course. Ouch, ouch, ouch… Kile pulled into the loading zone outside the main entrance and I had to wait a moment until the contraction was passed. We hopped out and went straight for the elevators. Of course, had another contraction in the elevator. They were very close. Theres a security guard posted outside the doors to the elevators. He stood up as we got off and it was on his tongue to ask what we needed. However, it was rather apparent from my bowed posture and gasps and he pointed the way to the the labor and delivery desk.
The nurses there asked our names and then said, “Are you the Porters? We’ve been waiting for you!” They jumped into action, showing us to our room. There was the standard procedure, get into the gown, etc and so forth. When I was all set, we called in the nurse and the first order of business was checking dilation. I was five centimeters! Next came the monitors. She tried to get the heart rate set up before the contraction monitor. This is where we had some trouble. She tried all over my belly, looking for the heart. I felt that thudding in my chest, that sudden *fear*. She kept finding a fast rate, but when checking it against me, we found it was me. My heart rate was near 130! Understandably so. Still, the nurse didn’t want us to panic too much and said they’d bring in a portrable ultrasound. Kile was still very confident that the nurse just didn’t know what she was doing. I however was nervous. I felt the dread seeping through me, but I still had hope.
She tried on the ultrasound, and still nothing. My heart plummeted further. She finally said she found the heart, it simply wasn’t moving. And I knew. They were bring up a regular ultrasound, stat (they actually used that word!) but I knew. I remember looking up at the ceiling tiles. The sun was rising and pouring through the windows and the tiles were orangey yellow with it. And I can remember staring at them and pleading furiously with God..”Please, please let my baby be okay. Please let this just be a scare. He has to be alive. This can’t happen.” My doctor came in, and she looked scared. I couldn’t look at her. I couldn’t look at anyone. Then I remember the, “I’m so sorry”s. That was that. It was stunning. I looked at Kile, and I saw my expression mirrored there. Shock. Just plain shock.
They continued to prep me for the c-section. Kile knew it was time to call our parents. He couldn’t get ahold of my parents, the line was busy. He reached his parents on their cellphone as they were on the road. I’ll never forget this moment. It was the first time we had to verbalize what had happened. He told them “They can’t find the heartbeat” and just broke down. He sobbed. I’d never seen him cry before and there was my big strong husband, crying like a child. A switch was flipped in me. I reached out for him, I had to hold him. I held him there until he calmed. That was my moment to be strong for him. I don’t know where it came from, because I felt far from strong. But I had it in that moment. I was getting my IV at this time as well, I barely felt it. Even though they gave me terbutaline to stop the contractions, I still was having some. Either it was making them less intense or the emotional pain was starting to outpaced them or both.
The catheter was the worst. I recall the one nurse saying when they were having trouble getting it in, “Maybe we should do this after the anesthesia.” And the other lady said, “No, we’re here and we’ve got this ready, lets do it now.” Argh.
We finally got my parents on the line and I could tell Kile was choking up again. So I took the phone and I was the one who told my dad. It was a bizarre moment. My parents sounded so hollow, so sad…its really hard to describe. My mom immediately fell into planning mode, her own coping mechanism. They would come up Thursday morning, they had a party they were hosting Wednesday night they didn’t feel right canceling. That was fine with me. I would be in the hospital until at least Thursday anyhow. I had to get off the phone pretty quickly… I could tell my mother was getting emotional and I was holding on by a very thin thread.
They were going to do a spinal and I remember really dreading the thought of that “moment”, when they would pull the baby out and Kile and I both would be there and what should be a happy moment would be horrible. I said to Kile as the nurses were leaving, “I wish I was having general anesthesia.” Apparently one of the nurses heard me and she came in an explained that there were so many more risks with general and that’s why they were doing a spinal. I understood but at the same time I didn’t. After all, the only risks that would matter to me are to the baby and the baby couldn’t be hurt any more than he already was. Risks to me just didn’t seem important at the time. I was feeling really selfish. I just wanted the oblivion. The anesthesiologist came in, a really nice lady with kind eyes. She said that maybe general would be a good idea after all. There was a reason and she told me but I forget now. Had something to do with toxins that could hurt me if we did a spinal instead. Again, I’m not sure. Maybe she just said it to make me feel better. Regardless, I was going to get my wish. Never thought I would want to have general anesthesia for a c/s again.
It was only after this whole exchange that I thought of Kile. He had been ready to go in his scrubs and he almost looked a little disappointed. I asked him if it was okay. He assured me that it was. I felt bad..he couldn’t have general anesthesia. He didn’t get to float away on a fluffy pink cloud and just escape the situation like I was going to. We said a goodbye, hugging…still feeling detached from the situation. I think we both did. They had me walk down to the surgery room and I remember looking over my shoulder at Kile, I kept wanting a last look at him. He was standing there, looking so alone. I just wanted to hug him until the end of time.
The surgery room was bright and cheerful. There was a window, which surprised me. I remember thinking that if the circumstances had been happier, I would have been so happy to have my baby in such a friendly looking room. I was led to the “bed” and laid down. I was still contracting but I was so distracted from the pain. I remember shaking violently and the nurse saying it was the terbutaline. She covered my legs and chest with warm blankets and they painted beta dine over my belly. They put an oxygen mask on my face and I remember I had a hard time breathing through it. I felt like I was suffocating. I also remember the nurse telling me to take slow deep breaths, that I was going to hyperventilate and pass out if I didn’t. But it was as if I couldn’t control it. I was feeling the grief swell up in my chest, it was unbearable. One gal was pressing down on my throat and the anesthesiologist explained to me that I was going to be going under soon. And I did..out like a light.
I had a dream, but I don’t remember it. All I know is it was very pleasant and I felt happy and content. Who knows, maybe I dreamed I was holding Jack and he was alive and well and saying goodbye to me. I felt comforted by it, whatever the dream was. I woke up in a room similar to the one I had been in before the c-section. Come to find out it was just down the hall. The nurse who had taken me into the operating room was there. I remember she was pressing on my stomach, and apologizing for how much it hurt. I felt quite a bit of pain. She kept upping my medication, shooting something into my IV. Not certain what. Then I looked over and Kile was there. I was still so drowsy but it felt so good to see his face. He squeezed my hand and I felt such love for him, it just overflowed. I was so glad to see him. It made me feel so much better. The nurse shooed him out for another ten minutes but he was back soon.
He filled me in on what he’d done while I was in surgery. He had gone to move the van, as it was still in the loading zone in front of the main entrance. He drove it over to the parking garage and the gal on duty there asked what he was there for. He told her his wife was having a baby and she congratulated him. Of course she couldn’t know. When he got out of the van, he saw the infant car seat strapped in in the back. He thought maybe he should take it out, put it in the back but decided against it. Poor guy. He grabbed a sandwich at the cafe, he was suddenly hungry. When he got back, Dr. Brown wanted to talk to him. That is when she told him about the cord. Apparently, it was so tightly around Jackson’s neck that the surgeon had a hard time removing it. He was also very high in the pelvis. They believed what had happened was he had turned, wrapping the cord around his neck. Then when he had tried to “drop”, the cord had tightened, cutting off the life support. She said it wasn’t unheard of, but it was a pretty rare occurrence. Oftentimes, because the cord is longer than it should be. She talked to him for a long while, trying to explain, answering any questions. He was so grateful that she took the time. She said there was no need for an autopsy, the reasons were pretty clear. Later she told us the coroner agreed with her findings. So that was that.
The nurse, her name was Joy, then asked us if we wanted her to bring the baby in for us to see. I know we were both hesitant about it. She explained that he had some bruising to his face from the cord, and that some of his skin had started to pull away in exaggerated wrinkles along his arms and such. But that he was cleaned up and dressed. I considered how I would feel in five years, and whatever I might always wonder about him if I never saw him. So put in those terms, the decision was easy.
She brought him in, bundled in blankets. The first thing that struck me was how TINY he was. Harry hadn’t been overlarge at 7lbs 5oz, but 6lbs was just so small! It was almost difficult to find him in the blankets! He looked so peaceful, as she placed him in my arms. Like he was sleeping. That sounds trite, but its true. He had a pallor to him, that said he was more than just sleeping. But I didn’t really notice that as much. I touched his cheek..it was so soft! I put my finger in his hand, so that his fingers curled around it. They were cold, his fingers, but felt so perfect and right on mine. He had perfectly formed little fingernails. It occurred to me that it was strange he should have such perfect fingernails yet not be alive. No fair, somehow. But he was so sweet. And his small weight felt good in my arms. Kile took some pictures with the digital camera. I asked if he wanted to hold him. I know he was hesitant but he did. And then he just seemed to really relax into it, enjoying holding little Jack.
We must have spent a half hour with him, saying our goodbyes. Kile kissed his forehead, and I recall wanting to the do the same, but I couldn’t bend down to reach. I wish that I had asked Kile to help me with it, but I didn’t. It really slipped my mind. I may regret that later though and that worries me.
We spent a lot of time in recovery. Joy informed us she was getting us a room on another floor. That was a relief. We wouldn’t have to be on the maternity floor then. Not that we begrudge anyone their babies, of course, but in those first few days, it might make things more difficult for us. And the nurses on the floor we were transfered to were so incredibly wonderful to us. We received the best care while we were there. Everyone was very considerate of what we were going through and never once questioned Kile staying with me. They even brought him a fold out cot to lay on.
I am still overwhelmed. Seeing Jack really helped my frame of mind. I was still sad… so incredibly sad. But knowing how and knowing what he looked like helped us to move on to the next step. And right now we’re just taking it day by day. We want to have another baby, as soon as we can. God willing, it won’t take us as long to conceive. No baby will ever replace Jackson, but we can at least move forward and give our love to another baby.