I've known love for a long time. I have loved God since I can remember and am blessed to have an incredible family and friends that I love so much. I experienced a new kind of love in spring of 2008 when I fell in love with my husband and that love deepens with each day that passes.
However, at 5:32 p.m. on Thursday, June 28, 2012, I experienced a kind of love I've never known. It was at that moment that a completely new part of my heart opened up. It was the moment I finally got to meet my son.
At around 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27th, I stood up from my desk and felt a small gush of fluid. It was a strange feeling and I honestly had to convince myself I hadn't had an accident on myself (ha). The trickles continued for 30 minutes, so I called the doctor and left work immediately. The doctor confirmed that my water had broken, so I was immediately admitted to the hospital.
The next few minutes were a whirlwind. I had one nurse checking me in, another getting my bed and gown ready and yet another starting my IV and drawing blood. As nervous as I had been about giving birth, I was sitting on the bed with a huge smile on my face and laughing with the nurses when my husband, Clay, came in. Our dream of becoming parents was finally becoming a reality and the thought of seeing my precious little boy overruled any fear or anxiety I had.
Because my water had broken, I was forced to stay in the bed to prevent infection. I was already 3 centimeters dilated and 50% effaced on arrival, and they expected me to start contracting on my own through the night. I had a few erratic contractions throughout that sleepless night, but they weren't measurable or becoming regular, so the nurse added Pitocin to my IV at 6:00 a.m.
By 7:00, I was having fairly intense contractions that were 2 minutes apart. They really began hurting at 7:30 and by 7:45, were enough to make me forget to breathe. Our nurse, Rhonda, sent everyone to the waiting room to check dilation and to give me a few minutes to relax. I was already at 5 cm and was insistent on holding out for the epidural until 7 cm until one big contraction sent me over the edge.
I began involuntarily shaking and couldn't control it. Even feeding myself ice chips was impossible, so Clay had to spoon them into my mouth. I don't know what caused it, but the nurse said it was a natural reaction to being in labor. I'm glad to hear that- I thought I was just being a weenie.
I got the epidural at 9:15 a.m. when I was 6 cm dilated. I began to feel relief quickly. I could no longer move the left side of my body, but after 3 contractions, noticed I was still having pain in a localized area on my right side. It intensified with each contraction and one even made me cry. I could still move my right leg, a sure sign that the epidural was not working. The anesthesiologist gave me an additional dose of meds and they rolled me to the right to get the meds to move, but it didn't work. I had to have the epidural removed and reinserted. Thirty seconds later, I was numb from the waist down and the involuntary shaking stopped.
The next few hours seemed to last an eternity. I wasn't feeling any pain, but my legs tingled. I made a game out of trying to move my legs, but lost every time. No matter how hard I tried, I had no control of anything below the belt. Clay had to move my legs for me when the tingling got too intense and once when he moved me, I discovered the reason behind the tingle. Thanks to the epidural, my feet and legs were retaining water and looked like I weighed 400 pounds.
Finally, at 2:40 p.m. I was at 10 cm and Bryson was ready to be born!
I started pushing at 3:00. My contractions were strong and the nurse said we'd push through them so the combination of the force of the contraction and pushing would move him down. The first push was an experience I can't describe. I had waited so long for this moment, but I was so unsure of what I was doing. It was suddenly very real that I was about to give birth, something I have feared my entire life. Enter involuntary shaking (maybe I am just a weenie!). I began to make real progress after roughly an hour of pushing, but little man was stubborn (imagine that) and was moving slowly. I was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and when I heard the nurse tell a person over speaker that my progress was slow, I wanted to cry.
At 5:10, my doctor came in to check on me and could see Bryson's head was only a 1/2 inch away, but he had turned it to the right. He gave me two options: use the forceps or go in for a C-section. I elected to have him use the forceps. He told me we had one shot- if the forceps didn't work with the next set of pushes, we would be going in for a C-section. I immediately began praying that God would push this baby out!
A few minutes later, the drapes were set up around me and my doctor was preparing me to push one last time. It was then that my contractions decided to calm down… of course. Finally, a contraction began and I pushed once and Bryson's head was out. His body followed very quickly without any help from me. Actually delivering him was nowhere near as scary as I'd expected. I didn't feel any pain, but did feel the pressure of his head. Knowing he was out was a surreal, indescribable feeling. Relief flooded my body and I screamed, and then began crying uncontrollably. I had done it- I made it through labor and my little boy had finally entered the world.
At 5:32 p.m. I heard his first cry and my pink and purple little boy was placed on my chest.
There was a scurry of activity in the next few minutes. As I was being tended to, Bryson was weighed and measured. He weighed in at 7 pounds 12.7 ounces and was 21.25 inches long.
After he was cleaned up, the nurses handed Bryson over to his daddy. Clay couldn't take his eyes off of Bryson and stared at him in awe. Watching my husband with our son may have been the most precious moment of the day.
Clay and I got a few minutes alone with our little guy before anyone came in. Those first few moments as a family of 3 will be forever etched in my mind.
After a while, our family was allowed in to meet our precious little man. We spent most of the night surrounded by family and friends. At around 8:30 PM, we were finally alone with Bryson for the first time. It was awesome to have our little family together and just enjoy time with this little guy we had waited so long for.
Around 9:00 that night, a nurse came in to tell us that because Bryson had a fever of 100.6 degrees and had grunted a little right after birth, they were going to do some precautionary tests. Within the hour, we learned that he had a pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung. Hearing the news sent us into a tailspin! The neonatologist came to our room to explain the situation. It's a fairly common condition, but Bryson's was pretty large. To someone who isn't in the medical field, especially new parents, hearing something like that is awful. Although the doctor did a terrible job explaining and made us think the worse, a pneumothorax isn't a huge deal. It is just a pocket of air next to the lung that prevents the lung from expanding as far as it should. It can typically be resolved with a round of antibiotics.
They took him to the NICU immediately and hooked him up to all kinds of machines, one of which measured his blood oxygen. It was at 100%, so the pneumothorax was not affecting his breathing. They hooked him up to an IV and gave him antibiotics.
The following morning, we got to the NICU early. In addition to finding out the pneumothorax had improved, we also learned that Bryson's white blood cell count was elevated, signifying an infection. The doctor, who has a reputation for being very conservative, informed us that he would be doing a spinal tap to rule out meningitis, even though he was already certain that wasn't the cause. As expected, the results indicated that Bryson didn't have meningitis.
Twenty-four hours later, on Saturday morning, his white blood cell count was normal and the pneumothorax had improved even more. The doctor informed us he would no longer be testing his blood and wouldn't do another chest x-ray until Monday morning.
I was discharged from the hospital on Saturday evening. That morning, I awoke before Clay and cried until he woke up… then cried some more. We had been looking forward to bringing our little guy into the world and taking him home to meet his fur sisters for so long and now we were facing going home without him. To know we were leaving without him broke my heart. Leaving him in the hospital that first night was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
On Monday, three days after his birth, the pneumothorax was gone. Praise God! If antibiotics wouldn't have worked, a needle or chest tube would have been inserted in his chest. I'll take antibiotics to the alternative any day!
Although the pneumothorax was gone and his white blood cell counts are normal, little man had to receive a 10-day cycle of antibiotics. Clay and I spent 11-12 hours a day at the hospital. He was in a crib and was only hooked up to machines for 20-30 minutes a day when he got antibiotics, so we spent the day holding him and watching him sleep, feeding him, changing diapers and taking hundreds of pictures.
In his first week of life, Bryson had 4 chest x-rays, a spinal tap and a number of IV ports. From 5 hours old until 10 days old, he was hooked up to a pulse oximeter and various sensors. He went a week with an antibiotic catheter port on the right side of his head. Through it all, he handled everything like a champ.
We spent his first holiday huddled together watching a fireworks show from the NICU window. Our first night together as a family of three was in a hotel-type family room next door to the isolation room, where monitors screamed through the night. While that night wasn't ideal, we were together and that’s what mattered.
We finally got to take our sweet little boy home on Sunday, July 8. His homecoming wasn't quite what we had planned, but because of the trials, it was much, much sweeter.