It's a miracle he's here. It's a miracle any of us are here, really. But we could have lost him. To have him here, safe and alive, means more than you'll ever be able to understand. His arrival doesn't mark the end of our journey, but rather a new beginning in it.
Heston Emmanuel came five weeks early, April 25th.
I had been in the hospital and sent home three times already. Every time he was on the fetal monitor, he was fine. My vitals were fine. He passed every biophysical ultrasound with flying colors. Something was amiss, though. It would have gone undetected. One doctor decided to order a cord doppler, because Heston's heartbeat was "too" steady for a considerable amount of time. He spoke to us about our options and what the results meant. Heston's doppler showed his body was working a little too hard to push his blood, but sometimes these dopplers were inconsistent and not a good gauge of what was going on. He called the perinatologists in Minneapolis. They weren't at all concerned. We were sent home, but not before having another doppler ordered for the following Monday.
That doppler showed more of the same. One more doppler was ordered for three days later. That was worse. Potential reversal blood flow. I was admitted, put on constant monitoring, and a cesarean was scheduled for the next morning. No one was going to mess around anymore. This was too much to stress over. It was time to deliver.
All this time and with every appointment and hospital admission, my greatest fear was Heston would pass away and we would be left saying, "If only we had taken him sooner." Every NST and biophysical ultrasound was fine. He was "fine". But so was Harlynn. Harlynn was always fine and then her heart stopped beating. She never had a cord doppler. The minute the doctor explained to us what this was, what it meant, and what the potential was - I knew in my heart, this is what took Harlynn's life. If we didn't act appropriately, it would take Heston's.
The next morning I walked into the operating room. The spinal was administered, I was situated on the operating table, and the surgery began. A NICU nurse came up and said, "I didn't know it was you!" and kissed me on the forehead. Nurse Erin. She had been our NICU nurse several times while Haley was in the NICU and had become a good friend of our family. She was there to intercept Heston and care for him in whatever way he needed, since he was arriving five weeks early. She had gotten a call to come in for a 35-week c-section. She had no idea it was us. We had no idea she had been called. It was a divine appointment. Two weeks prior to this cesarean, I had gone into preterm labor and had been given steroid shots and magnesium. These would play a big part in helping Heston on his delivery day.
|Delivery Under Way|
|Heston, being cared for by Nurse Erin|
He came out, trying to cry but unable to at first. Once he was suctioned, we heard tiny squeaks and squeals. As I turned my head to watch him in the warming bed, I couldn't stop crying. He was here. He was here, and he was alive. And he was crying. Mama was too. Five weeks early, he was a whopping 6 pounds 7 ounces. And he was hungry. His blood sugar was low, so Daddy rushed off to supplement him with some formula. About an hour or so later, he was brought into my room and I was able to see and hold him. My son.
I can't describe to you the sheer relief I felt. He was here. I could hold him. See him. Watch him breathe. He was here. He was alive. Alive. During delivery, the doctor informed me his umbilical cord was exceptionally short. He wouldn't have "made it" through labor. He was here. He was alive.
Is it a coincidence I was in the hospital over Harlynn's one year heavenversary, receiving steroid shots and magnesium? No. Is it a coincidence I ended up in the hospital "unnecessarily" only to have a cord doppler ordered that revealed potential threat? No. Did God hear my pleadings in getting this boy here safe and thriving? Absolutely. Do I think Harlynn helped? Without a doubt.
The moments and days following are a blur. I was drugged up. I was in serious pain. I had been sawed in half, but I was on cloud nine. I was trying to focus on my baby and getting us home to our family. Heston was in the NICU all of 4 1/2 hours. He was fine. He was coming home with us. Thank you, Lord.
I felt - and still feel - a swarm of conflicting emotions. Since losing Harlynn, my inner circle of friends has grown smaller. I find I mostly only communicate with other loss moms. They get it. They understand it. They don't offer up platitudes or nonsensical solutions. They don't make the situation, or simple conversation, about themselves. I found, even in the hospital when visitors would come by, some of them were speaking only of themselves. It was infuriating. We almost lost him. He's here. His sister isn't. I don't give two shakes about your day. I was operated on to get him here. Alive. His day is the only one I care about.
After we lost Harlynn, we had people who had been in our lives forever, slowly and eventually fade out. They stopped calling. They stopped talking. They stopped. And that's fine - it happens, and I read about it happening, and I knew - but it's still sad. It's still a loss to grieve in addition to losing our daughter. Relationships will never be the same again. Ever. It happens. It's unfortunate. It's reality. We also had people who weren't in our lives before suddenly show up with force. Trying to reckon how they could support us and doing what they could when they thought too. And it was strange. They hadn't been in our lives before and now, suddenly, they were an ever-present force. It was weird. It was uncomfortable. It was surreal. With the arrival of Heston, some of that shifted. Some who dropped out of our lives earlier suddenly tried to eke back in, so they could meet and hold our baby. Some who suddenly showed up after Harlynn, tried to take command once more for the position they had "earned" in supporting us through losing our daughter. I didn't want any of it. All I wanted was my family. My husband, my daughter, my son. My circle of loss moms who shed tears when they laid eyes on Heston. Who shook their heads in disbelief that he was here. The people who never shifted in their support for us. They were here before, and they've been here since, and never once have sought recognition or reward for standing by us. My circle. And to sleep while holding my baby. That was all I wanted.
The day we were discharged was somewhat infuriating. It took four hours to leave the hospital, then when I came home, nothing was what I expected. The diaper genie was still in it's box, in the living room. The bassinet hadn't been cleaned once brought in from the garage. There was stuff everywhere. Stuff. You know how I am about stuff. But we were home. With Heston. It was glorious. And maddening. All at once. I looked at Heston and broke down in tears several times. Those tears were a combination of elation and sorrow. Relief and sadness. Excitement and longing. I am in love with this Little Man. I still miss his sister. Knowing in my heart how she died, though medically we'll never have 100% proof positive of that, I feel a sense of relief and of simultaneous despair. If only we had taken her sooner...
I was a mess that first day. I've been a mess intermittently since. Today I would have been 37 weeks pregnant with Heston. Thirty seven weeks, and he may not have still been alive. But instead I have a two week old baby, who eats and potties like a total champ. He cries when he's unclothed. He hates having his diaper changed. He's peed on me twice. He is a charmer, and we are all completely smitten with him. Especially Little Miss. She adores him, covers him with kisses, and it's adorable. She is an awesome big sister.
No, our journey is not over. And now, ahead of us, we have the responsibility of letting Heston know about his sister, Harlynn, and how she has impacted our lives, and the lives of those we've been allowed to be a part of through Harlynn's Heart. We'll miss her while loving on Little Miss and Little Man. We're now a family of 4 + 1.
I am forever changed. Forever changed in how I parent my kids, how I am a wife to my husband, and how I relate (or don't relate) to other people. Some don't like me. Some don't like who I've become. Some don't like how I've changed. I'm okay with that. This isn't about them. I can't please everyone, nor will I try. The only thing I can do is give thanks to God He brought my son here safe and sound. He put that doctor in the room with the whim to order the cord doppler. He didn't allow my husband or daughter to once again go through the heartache of losing another child. This isn't about other people. This isn't about me. This isn't about my kids. This is about God getting us through the worst and best times of our lives, and carrying us gently, lovingly, and truthfully, through until the very end.
Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, "My foot is slipping," your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. ~ Psalm 94:17-19