Now that Grace turned one year old I went back and updated her birth story. I had shared a brief description of what happened last November but I am so glad I wrote it all down because there are many details I completely forgot. And I never want to forget as remembering causes me to rejoice in the Lord again and be grateful for His amazing goodness to us. The story is long and I don't share pictures this time but I did include a video of Grace near the end.
I was due December 3, 2013 with a baby girl and was scheduled for my 6th c-section two days before Thanksgiving on November 26th. Initially I wasn’t thrilled to be in the hospital over Thanksgiving but realized that it didn’t matter and I knew my family would be well-cared for. My pregnancy was good even though I was of “advanced maternal age”. I had an ultrasound in Green Bay that summer to make sure that my placenta wasn’t adhering to scar tissue as that could cause a problem but the specialist said everything looked great. Nothing was out of the ordinary. I was big as always and measured 1 week ahead each time. I had Braxton Hicks early on which is normal for me also. By week 30 I wondered how I would make it another 9 weeks I felt so heavy and weighed down.
October 31st I spent getting ready for Katie and Seth’s birthday party the next day. I baked a cake, shopped for needed items with plans to run to the store the next morning to get a cake topper. I was thankful that John was home as the night before he had been in Detroit. That night Simon was sounding like he had a cold and about 1 a.m. or so on November 1st we woke up to that dreaded croup cough. John brought Simon to bed with us as it wasn’t too bad at that point and then we could monitor him. I turned over to give him a hug and at that moment had a Braxton Hicks contraction followed by an intense shooting pain. I turned over to see if it would subside but it only grew worse. I wondered if it could be labor, although last time I labored I had moments of relief and this pain was intensifying. But what else could the pain be? I have also had kidney stones during pregnancy and knew it wasn’t that either.
I got out of bed and walked to the kitchen knowing that moving could help relieve pain. My doctors have always emphasized if I am ever in labor to call and get to the hospital right away. I called the triage nurse who calmly told me to come to the hospital. By this time, only maybe 15 minutes had passed but I knew something was very wrong. I could no longer walk and sat down and called out for John to help me. He woke Noah and explained what was happening and Noah and John managed to get me down the stairs and into the van. Noah recalled knowing I was in a lot of pain and that it had something to do with the baby but he didn't know anything else. He checked on everyone and Katie woke to find out what was happening. Then he didn't want to be alone at 2 a.m. so he woke up Luke and Jonah and eventually the others woke up too. They ended up watching movies until morning when Grandpa came to pick them up.
That was a very long 25 minutes (probably less) to get to the hospital. John was on a mission and was driving fast that I asked him to please slow down as it hurt so much more on those corners. I was in such pain and as I moaned I kept asking Jesus to help me and to keep our baby safe.
At the hospital my Dad met us to pick up Simon who we didn’t want to leave with Noah seeing as he had been croupy. As he opened my door, I saw the look of concern on his face and he later stated that he will never forget the look of pain I had on my face. I slid out and John maneuvered me into a wheel chair and rushed me to labor and delivery. They put the fetal monitors on me somehow but all I really know is that I was in pain unlike anything I had ever experienced and never want to again and kept asking them to “please help me”. I can’t recall all that happened other than getting me ready to have my baby. I remember them yelling, “Get everyone here now!” and meeting the on-call doctor, Dr. Alice Haupt. What providence that she was on-call. She made it seem as if all was well and there was nothing to worry about always reassuring me. And indeed I had no idea what was happening.
I remember waving to John saying I’d see him soon and he had a look of fear on his face. Now, he doesn’t really like any c-section and they do worry him but this was an entirely different situation. He said it was the unknown that worried him.
They brought me to the cold surgical unit and I recalled my past c-sections and knew this was nothing like those. I was shaking uncontrollably and was still in tremendous pain. Dr. Alice was trying to calm me and I recall her telling me I needed to focus for the baby. Apparently I did because someone announced that baby’s heart tones were now stable. There was a whirlwind of activity around me. At one point someone yelled, “Is someone writing down everything we are doing?” People kept entering to assist. I was still shaking like crazy and my pain so great I wanted it over with. Dr. Alice held me to try and keep me calm so the anesthesiologist Dr. Parks could administer the epidural. As soon as the epidural took effect I could relax somewhat as I no longer felt pain. Now I felt as if I could pass out and tried focusing on the ceiling and kept singing to myself. I typically have music playing in the background but there wasn’t time for that. My nurse Mary Kay was wonderful and stayed with me helping me focus by asking me to look into her eyes. She also held up one of my arms as they didn't have time to get the board underneath for it to rest on. They decided not to have John come in and I was fine with that not wanting him to worry further. They threw up the curtain, and next thing I knew baby girl was out. I had a bit of fear as I didn’t hear a big cry like I normally do but instead a small mewing sound like a kitten might make. I could see a crowd around her but she was here and alive and that’s all that mattered to me at that point. I heard someone ask if anyone got the time of birth and another person called out "3:25".
Dr. Parks was on his phone almost constantly trying to get blood for me. He kept asking how long until my blood A+ was ready. I asked him later that week what that meant and he said they test it to see if it is compatible with my own blood which I think he said takes 45 minutes. But he didn’t have time to wait as I needed a blood transfusion. I knew something was wrong as I felt as if I was drifting and going to pass out and then I started to get dry heaves. At one point I vaguely wondered if this might be the end. Dr. Parks started the universal blood and I began to feel relief. I ended up with 3 pints of blood, two universal and the last one was my own type.
Typically during my sections I like to keep distracted from what is happening by talking to everyone around me getting a play-by-play. This was not as easy this time as everyone was really busy working on me and baby girl. Mary Kay asked if she could go with baby and so it was just me but I was more concerned about baby girl so I was fine with that.. The song that was going over and over through my mind was Lord I Need You by Matt Maher. It is a song that had ministered to me numerous times during my pregnancy and did so again this day.
I went to recovery and they assured me they would get me back to my room soon but seeing as I had lost blood they wanted to monitor me. I was feeling good by now and listened as Dr. Parks and one of the nurses went over all the details and documented the time each thing happened.
During all of this John was sitting in my room praying and trying to relax. The nurse came out to tell him he had a baby girl but he had no idea all that had transpired. He stood by while they wheeled baby girl into the nursery and watched as they worked on her and that is when he saw her chest retracting. He had seen that enough times when Luke and Jonah and then Seth had RSV as infants so he knew the seriousness of it. When Dr. Traeger, the pediatrician on call, told John that baby girl needed to be sent to Milwaukee it scared him. He called my parents and my Mom came to the hospital right away and she said when she got there John just sat in the chair with his head between his hands and he couldn’t watch them working on our baby. It was too hard.
I don’t know at what time I found out my uterus ruptured. And when I did find out, it didn’t really register what that meant. I also found out that baby girl, who didn’t have a name yet, needed to go to St. Joseph’s in Milwaukee. That brought back memories of when I had Luke and Jonah as Jonah needed to go down because of a racing heart. But knowing that Jonah was back in a few days I wasn’t too concerned. As family and friends came to visit with tears in their eyes in the days that followed I began to see how close to not being here we were. And if it had taken much longer to get to the hospital, for instance waiting for an ambulance, the outcome would have been different.
The nurses wheeled my whole bed into the nursery where one of them was giving baby girl oxygen. Dr. Traeger, explained that he thought she had asphyxia and needed to be started on a cooling treatment at St. Joes. They knew she had been without oxygen but had no idea how long. Thankfully she never did come out of my uterus as she could have gotten into my abdomen. I gazed at my beautiful baby girl who reminded me of Simon when he was born and I longed to hold her but then I realized not all was right when I saw her chest retracting. They only allowed me to put my finger in her tiny hand and talk to her. I was blissfully unaware of the trial we were about to face as I tearfully watched my baby being wheeled away. John left shortly after to follow.
I recovered in the hospital without my baby. I thought it would be hard being that I had a constant reminder of the baby bed in my room. But family and friends kept me occupied and the nurses were so wonderful that I was okay. I knew so many people were praying for me and I felt the Lord’s peace so profoundly. John would text me updates from St. Joseph’s and pictures that I enjoyed sharing with all who came to my room.
Two days after baby girl as born, a Sunday morning, John called with news that rocked my world unlike anything I have experienced before. St. Joseph’s was transferring baby girl to Children’s hospital as they had an ECMO machine they could put her on to help her breathe. They had been treating her for asphyxia with the hypothermia treatment to heal her brain but after trying two ventilators she was still not breathing well. This was the last option and Children’s hospital had it. They immediately started the gradual warming in preparation for transfer but things weren't looking good.
At that point the thought came to me that I had not cradled my baby girl in my arms and now I may never hold her on this earth. John came to the hospital and we held each other and cried not knowing what lie ahead. My Dad went down to Children’s along with John and our Pastor came later. When Baby Girl Mason arrived at the hospital the doctor informed John she was in bad shape. My sister came to stay with me and I had many from church stop to hug me, read scripture, and pray with me that day. We were so grateful for all of our prayer warriors for baby girl who would later be known as our "Miracle Baby".
Here is a video I took when Grace was 4 days old. She was hooked up to a ventilator that you can hear "puffing" in the background and if you look closely you can see her chest moving to that sound. It also has John talking with the respiratory therapist as I scan the area looking at all of the machines and medications she was hooked up to. They had the lights on briefly as the therapist had just changed something. Otherwise it was typically dark. If you are unable to view the video here is the link -- http://youtu.be/V53K2l5k3LE
A few things I found out later some of which people have asked about --
* They were able to give me an epidural, because baby’s heart stabilized. I believe there were reasons they preferred me awake but I never did find that out.
* My uterus did not rupture along the horizontal line but they believe it started with the small “j cut” that was done when Jonah was stuck. And then it split vertically on the active portion of the uterus.
* They did not do a hysterectomy as it is better to save the uterus and focus on that rather than more surgery. That was possible because they were able to control my bleeding.
* Mrs. Teske, one of the nurses that came in the next morning, and someone we know from 4H looked at the fetal monitoring strip and she said the hand of God was all over it. You could see Grace's heart rate drop and right before surgery it went up.
* The doctor told me the chances of my uterus rupturing were 1 in 250 after 5 c-sections since chances increase each time.