It's time to start blogging about Ben. I will warn any of you who read this blog that the next couple of posts will be pretty raw. I will not be posting for anyone, but myself. The posts may include emotions I don't feel anymore, statements that are horrible to say out loud and just all around sad stuff. But, I feel like it needs to be said. His story needs to be told. He is and will be forever our son and my baby.
It's been over a month now since he was born. I can't believe it really. Our lives have changed so much since February 26th when my labor started.
I remember feeling really strange Saturday morning just not quite right. I took a shower and started crying for no reason. I had been feeling impatient to meet Ben and was starting to feel like he would never appear. Tim took Frank to swimming and I just laid around all morning. They came home and everyone got ready to eat lunch. I wasn't hungry (which is so strange because I ALWAYS want to eat) and just decided to lay down and rest. I went up to my room to lay down and started crying hysterically. I texted my niece Christina and she told me that she felt the same way before she went into labor with her second son. So, I felt comforted. I rested for almost an hour and then at 12:40 I felt a pop and a gush of liquid. I walked to the bathroom and quietly yelled down to Tim that my water had broken (I had to be quiet because Frank was sleeping). I knew this time I wanted to labor at home as long as I felt comfortable. I walked downstairs and Tim started making calls. My mom was going to wait until Frank woke up and then take Frank to Barb and Lee's for the night so she could be with us at the hospital.
A couple of hours later around 3:30 we decided to go to the hospital. The contractions were coming fast and were close together. We called the hospital and were told to come in. On the way there I gripped the seat and moaned a lot. Tim dropped me off and went to park the car. I remember finding the elevator and telling some people that I would wait for the next one because they wouldn't want to ride with me. I made it to the labor and delivery department and they began to check me in. The next hour they spent taking my vitals, checking my cervix--I was dilated to 4 and completely effaced. This was a huge pat on the back as when I was in labor with Frank I never dilated past a 4. The nurses again had a hard time getting an IV in me (7 pokes in one hand), but finally got a specialist in to get it done. We were moved into a delivery room and I began to labor hard. After a couple more hours I decided to take a break and take some narcotics to ease the pain and rest. I did this 3 times. Between the second and third time the nurse urged me to labor for an hour to see if I could progress more and I dilated to a 6. Now looking back I feel guilty about this. The pain medication helped, but I remember the last time I took the narcotics the nurse urged me (in a kind way) to keep laboring without the drugs. I know I could have done it, but I decided to take another break. After that the contractions hit me stronger and I decided to get an epidural. Part of my reasoning was that I had gotten a fever again due to my water breaking early. This is the same thing that happened while I was laboring with Frank. I had a feeling we were hitting the same pattern again and that I was going to have another c-section. So, I thought I might as well be ready and prepped for it. Again, guilty feelings about this too. Although we don't know when Ben experienced the oxygen loss I feel like at any of these points I could have stayed off the drugs, made my way through labor, and pushed him out faster.
The epidural went in and more resting. Then as with Frank's labor my epidural didn't take with one side of my body. The doctor came in and readjusted the port and they pumped a ton of the medication in to me to catch the one side of my body up to the other. That's where this picture starts to crack. My fever spiked and they started antibiotics. The epidural had slowed my contractions and to counteract this they started picotin. When patients get infections due to their water breaking early the uterus gets lazy and the contractions slow. I knew at this point that Ben would end up in the special care nursery as Frank did for 3 days to test for the infection, but I could handle that. I knew what to expect. Then I got sick and started shaking. Right about this point the nurse asked me if I could push for a while to see if she could get him to move down. She tried to help my cervix complete it's dilation and I tried to move Ben down a little farther. I kept saying I don't feel good, I really don't feel good. Soon after that I threw up. I started crying and telling them that I wanted a C-section. The nurse reassured me that I could have a VBAC and that I just needed a rest. She wouldn't let me give up. They gave my Tylenol to lower the fever and told me to try and sleep a little. This was at about 3am. I remember sleeping until 6am--that was the first real rest I had encountered since labor had started.
When I woke up the OB in charge came in and checked me. She said Ben was really low and that we should try a vaginal birth. She said she wanted to try the vacuum to get his head through the birth canal. By this time I was feeling a little better, but the worst pain was that when I started shaking because of the fever I started getting cramps in my shoulders. That pain was worse than anything else. I asked them to give me a pain killer to help with it and they said okay. The OB attached the vacuum and with a couple of good pushes his head was down. They took off the vacuum and for the next hour I pushed Ben with my abdominal muscles. I state this only because the OB noticed that my contractions were super weak and basically told me that I was doing this all by myself. I remember touching Ben's little head as we neared the end. Nobody was panicked, everyone was excited. There was a team ready to take him to the Special Care Nursery, but it was all routine. The last words I remember out of the OB's mouth before Ben came out was that he would be really tired and would need time to recooperate.
The excitement was so high. My mom and Tim were standing by me, they could see Ben's head...one final push and he was out. I screamed "I did it." And then the horror began. I didn't hear a cry. The nurses had him and they were working furiously. I told Tim to stay with him and started to sob--I knew something was wrong. He wasn't breathing. I kept looking at my mom and looking at Tim. Then they took him away. Tim left and the room was silent. The OB was sewing me up and I was crying. Every cell in my body was screaming, NO! The next thing I remember was my OB checking on Ben and coming back to tell me that he had been deprived of oxygen during the birth process and that they were breathing for him. The nurses had called Children's Hospital and an ambulance was being sent over to pick him up. Shortly after that Tim came in with the first picture below. I remember thinking he was beautiful and looked so normal.
Tim and I talk and decide that he would follow the ambulance and that I would come to the hospital when I was discharged. The OB said once I could walk on my own they would let me go. A short while later the staff from Children's wheeled Ben in on the stretcher. The nurse told me that he'd had a severe brain injury and that they were taking him to Children's to place him on a cooling mat for 72 hours to stop any additional injuries. I knew it was really serious at that point. I got to touch him and then he was gone....and I was alone. Mom wass there, but I told her to start calling people for prayers. I called Leah (it's 5am in California) and told her that she was his godmother and to start praying. I called other friends and told them the situation. Time was already moving too fast. I prayed that his heart continued to beat, I told God I was prepared to take care of a child with disabilities if only he would keep him alive. I just wanted a living baby.
Then the doctor from Children's was on the phone. She conferenced Tim in and was going to tell me what's going on with Ben. She'd already told Tim and I could tell he had been crying. It was hard because we weren't together and I could feel that he was hurting and I knew the news was not good. She basically explained that at some point during the birth process Ben's body was deprived of oxygen. All his organs were affected by this. The only organ that cannot repair itself or be repaired is the brain. They could tell it had been significantly damaged by the lack of oxygen and she was honest with us that she was very worried about him. She told me that they put him on a cooling mat for 72 hours. Once that was over they will do an MRI and EEG to determine the extent of the brain damage. Then she got off the line and Tim and I cried together. We talked about who to call and when I will be there and our hearts broke together. Several more times over the next couple of hours we talked (Tim and I) about things like his parents rushing down to be with us, transportation to and from all of the hospitals, who we still needed to call. But, running through the back of our minds was Ben...
Around noon Tim's parents dropped off my sister-in-law Amanda and headed over to Children's to be with Tim and see Ben. Over the next 3-4 hours Amanda and mother helped me recover enough to leave the hospital. I remember my nurse telling me that she would be with me until I left and that she wouldn't take care of any other patients that day. They didn't move me, they just let me be. The OB came in again at some point and told me that she had called her church and that they were praying for Ben. She had tears in her eyes as she explained that they had no idea anything was wrong. I knew that, I could sense the peace before Ben was born, nobody had any idea that a tragedy had happened. Around 3:30 or so we left to go to Children's. They took me out in a wheelchair. I remember a lot of pain, I could barely walk, but I was determined to be with Ben. We got to the hospital and Tim met us and brought us to Ben's room. The picture below was taken right after I got there. We cried a lot a that point. The pain of seeing him was really hard.
I remember being happy that I was finally close to him, but understanding in my heart that we wouldn't have much time together. I really believe that from the minute Ben was born I knew he was not going to live. I had already started grieving for him. I was amazed that such a beautiful baby who looked so healthy could be so sick. It didn't make sense. Why us, why my baby, why my family? All I could grasp at this point was that I could touch him, be with him, and love him. And that's what we did.
Tim took me home that night after my mom and Amanda left. I wanted to see Frank, but I also planned on coming back later that night to stay at the Ronald McDonald house with Tim. Unfortunately, my body gave out and I eneded up staying home because of Tim's orders. I knew I needed to rest my body in order to have enough energy to deal with the week ahead.