Wednesday, February 8, 2017


My little man celebrated his 6th Birthday today!  Every year I read over his birth story to remind me just how lucky I am to be celebrating another year with him.  I posted it originally on my photography business blog, but since that is no longer active I am re-posting it here :)  
Theodore: Gift from God
Theodore was due to make his appearance February 12th.  As I anxiously awaited his arrival, the nesting instinct was in full force.  Every room in the house had been deep cleaned and organized.  The spare bedroom had been painted, refloored, trimmed, and set up with all the necessary nursery accessories.  All the baby toys had been pulled out, assembled, and disinfected.  The freezer was full to the brim with over a month’s worth of homemade frozen meals and side dishes for us to enjoy when we would return from the hospital.  The dresser in my bedroom had been converted to a changing station, and the bassinet was set up for baby’s first few weeks.
All the hospital bags were packed and the carseat was ready to go.  I couldn’t have been more prepared…or so I thought.  Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to endure.
I started having contractions on Superbowl Sunday.  They were light and far apart and went away completely when I went to bed.  Monday morning they came back and stayed fairly steady throughout the day.  At about 1:00 am on Tuesday, February 8th, the contractions were getting stronger and closer, so I got up and started tracking them.  I called my mom to come stay with Natalie and had my husband start the car.  When I left for the hospital my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and I checked in at about 3:30 a.m.
The nurse checked me and I was bummed when she said I was only dilated to 1 centimeter…especially since my pre-labor had been so similar to my first pregnancy (I had been dilated to 8 centimeters when I checked in to deliver my daughter).  Normally, I would have just left to labor at home a while longer, but for whatever reason, I didn’t.  That was blessing number one.

Shortly after being hooked up to the fetal monitoring machine, the nurse began to notice decelerations in the baby’s heartbeat after each contraction.  She watched it for a few contractions and then called in my doctor.  I was put on oxygen and leaned on the birthing ball in an effort to help the situation.  When my doctor arrived, he watched the baby’s heartbeat, checked me to find that I was now dilated to 3 centimeters, and calmly suggested a C-section.  He said that something was clearly stressing the baby out and rather than us biting our nails in hopes that the baby would be ok, we might be best to just get the baby out.  I agreed and plans began to be made. 
The doctor addressed all the questions that I had concerning C-sections -
  • I would be awake and numbed from the neck down
  • I would still get to hold my baby right away
  • We could still take pictures
  • The hospital stay would be lengthened by a day
  • The recovery would be slightly different than with a normal delivery. 
He left to get things ready and the nurses began to prep me.  Shortly after, they were struggling to find the baby’s heartbeat after each contraction.  They called my doctor back in and he checked me again and to try to rouse the baby.  Then he turned to the nurses and said “this is now a STAT C-section”.  I began to break down emotionally because I was certain that I was going to lose the baby.  They still struggled to hear heart tones and began frantically preparing me for an emergency C-section.  I called my mom crying to tell her the news and she made arrangements to come.  She prayed for me and reminded me that I needed to try to stay calm to get oxygen to the baby.
In order to get oxygen to the baby, I had to be on all fours as they wheeled my bed down the hospital corridor into the operating room.  The scrub nurses protested as I entered that my un-sterile bed could not be brought into the operating room.  My nurses responded they had no choice… this was a STAT C-section.  They did everything they could while I was on all fours and then I laid on my back for them to catheterize me.  They tried and tried and it wouldn’t work.  I was in pain from contractions and this was not helping anything.  The IV wasn’t cooperating and it seemed nothing was going right.  I hadn’t heard the baby’s heartbeat at all and was crying uncontrollably.  My husband wasn’t allowed to be in the room yet, so I had no one to calm me down.  The doctor’s entered and told me I was going to be put under general anesthesia, a method they had previously told me was only done in emergency situations.  They prepped my stomach and asked the anesthetist why I wasn’t under yet.  He responded he was going as fast as he could.  One of the doctors assured me they would wait to cut until I was under.  My doctor just held eye contact with me and gave me a reassuring wink.  I heard the other doctor say ”Sarah Homme STAT C-section 5:36 am” to the scrub nurse taking notes, and then I was under.
I awoke, groggy and in a fog to hear my doctor and my husband saying “Teddy”.  I realized it must have been a boy.  They said he only weighed 4# 14.5 oz and that the umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck 5 times and twice around his body.  I am still foggy as to what else was said in the recovery room.  After a while, I was wheeled down the hallway.  My parents and my husband were there waiting.  My mom had my phone, it had been sitting on my bed which was still in the middle of the hallway outside the operating room when she arrived.  I sent my husband to get my glasses because I had had to remove my contacts before the surgery and couldn’t see anything.  I was able to see my son through the nursery window before they brought me back to my room, but I don’t remember any details of this because I was still under the effects of the anesthesia.
My doctor came in to show me an x-ray they had taken of Teddy’s chest, but was called out to help in the nursery.   When he returned, he said that Teddy’s chest x-ray was clear but that he was having a little trouble breathing so he was thinking about calling the Grand Forks NICU.  They had the specialized technology and staff and it would be what was best for Teddy.  I agreed and the NICU team was called.  It was agreed that Justin would follow the ambulance there to be with Teddy and I would follow as soon as I was discharged.  I called friends and family to let them know that he was being transported soon so they could come in and see him before he left.  The nursery blinds were shut and I couldn’t get up to go in there with him and he was too unstable to come into my room.  When the NICU team arrived, they tended to Teddy in the nursery.  The head nurse came into my room to discussed all the details and to have me sign the forms necessary to admit Theodore to the NICU.  I asked her if I would be able to hold him before he left.  She said no, but that I would be able to touch him.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, they wheeled Theo in. 

He looked so small and fragile… I hadn’t been able to remember any details of what he looked like from a few hours earlier so I was trying to take him all in. 

They took down the side of his isolette and I prepared myself to reach in and touch his little tiny body. 

Then, much to my surprise, they began to take him out and put him in my arms.
I snuggled him in close and kissed his little cheeks.  
I tried to take in every detail… his ears, his nose, his little fingers and toes…
I pulled back his hat to see his hair.  He looked so much like his sister, I couldn’t believe it.

 Daddy stood nearby with Natalie.  This picture shows how much weight was on his shoulders.  He had tried to be so strong for me and yet he felt so helpless.  The concern in his eyes as he watched his wife with his son… well they say a picture is worth a thousand words…
Natalie was able to give her little brother a kiss before he left.  She loves babies so much and even having only seen him the one time, she would refer to “Teddy” throughout the time he was at the NICU.
 They said it was time for him to go.  I whispered in his ear that I needed him to be a little trooper and fight so that I could hold him again.
I cried as they took him from my arms.  My belly was empty, and now my arms were too.  It hurt so bad… both physically from the surgery, and emotionally.

 They got Theodore all secured and wheeled my son out of my room.  He wasn’t even 7 hours old and would already be leaving his mommy. 

Later that evening, Justin called me with an update.  When Theodore left the hospital, he had very little muscle tone.  If you lifted his arm, it would fall lifeless at his side.  His blood sugar had also been low.  He had struggled breathing and had struggled to maintain his body temperature.  Since he had arrived at the NICU his muscle tone looked to be improving, his blood sugar was stabilizing, he was breathing with just a slight air flow to take away some of the work from him, and he was being kept in a warmer to help maintain his temperature.  They had also found he was low on platelets so they had given a transfusion to try to help with that.

It was so hard to be away from him.  There was nothing that I could do for him except to get my milk supply going and to try and heal enough to get discharged.  Every two hours I would pump and then try to get up and moving.  In the middle of the night, I had just returned from a walk and was sitting in the rocking chair thinking, ”this wasn’t how it was supposed to be… I should be holding my little boy right now.  I can’t even remember what he looked like.”  I took out my camera and looked over the pictures that had been taken while he was at the hospital.  Everything looked so out of proportion… pictures couldn’t capture his tiny little ears or his long fingernail beds… this was so unfair.
I was lucky enough to be discharged the following day.  I was still in pain from the C-section, but wasn’t showing any signs of any risk factors and was able to get up and move around.  When I arrived in Grand Forks, Justin met me at the hospital entrance and wheeled me up to the NICU, a trek I would take many times over the next week.  Up the elevator to the fourth floor… call in on the black phone that we were here to see Teddy… wait to get buzzed in… walk down the hallway and take a right… continue walking to the NICU entrance… call in on the red phone… wait to get buzzed in.  Once inside, all outerwear was removed and set with other belongings in the entry area.  Then jewelry was removed and we scrubbed in.  Justin walked me through each step of the scrubbing in process.  Turn on sink with knee lever… roll up sleeves to elbows… rinse from elbows to fingertips and scrub with pink soap… rinse… dry… apply disinfectant.  After a week of scrubbing in multiple times each day, my hands were dry and raw… cracking and bleeding at the knuckles. 
After we scrubbed in, Justin led me to see my little Theodore.  I hadn’t prepared myself for how he would look and was shocked and overwhelmed with emotions as I approached him.  He was laying in a warmer with bili-lights above him.  On either side of the warmer there were multiple computer screens displaying his vitals.  From head to toe he was covered in wires, cords, or sensors.
He wore goggles to protect his eyes from the bili-lights.  On each temple there was a bandaid that helped to hold the canula in his nose.  There was an IV line in each hand that was taped on so that only his thumb was free.  The inside of each elbow had a bandaid from being poked and prodded.
There were three sensors attached to his chest to monitor his heartrate and respirations, and a gold heart to track his skin temperature.  He had a line going directly into his belly button that they drew his labs from and administered his IV fluids through.  A plastic bag was over his privates to obtain a urine sample.  One foot had a O2 level sensor wrapped around it and the other held the PICC line they had to insert the day before.   Both heels had multiple bandaids covering the many needle pokes he had received.

 Justin walked me through what each sensor was monitoring and what the levels on the computer screens should read.  I couldn’t believe how much he knew and understood about everything.  He had only been there 24 hours and it appeared to be second-nature.

The next day his air support was discontinued so I was able to bottlefeed him some of the milk I had pumped.  They turned off the bili-lights during the feeding so his goggles could be removed.  Even though his eyes were closed it was so nice to be able to see his face.  I couldn’t hold him because the central line in his belly button was inserted into an artery and it was too dangerous, but at least I could feel his little head in my hand.

 The nurse burped him before replacing his goggles and turning the bili-lights back on.
After his belly line was removed I was finally able to hold him! It was so wonderful getting to feel him in my arms again.  I wanted to kiss him a million times to make up for lost kisses.

 As time went on and his health improved he was able to move into a new “home”.  In the process of the move they removed all the unnecessary cords and wires so it looked a little less imposing. 
We were able to hold him for each of his feedings.  Justin always gave me first dibs because he knew how hard it was for me not to get to hold him all the time, but he loved holding his little man too!

 After showing that he could regulate his own temperature, Teddy was moved to an open “crib”. 

Then finally he able to leave the NICU and room in with us in the Pediatric wing of the hospital.
We relished in being able to hold him and snuggle with him.
  Simple tasks like changing his clothes and feeding him were so exciting!
He even sucked his little thumb!
After two nights in the Pediatric wing we finally got the go-ahead to head home!  He was already 10 days old and weighed 5 pounds 8.6 ounces.

 We got some pictures with the Dr’s who worked on him at the NICU. 
Then we headed home!

We were greeted with signs and a “Teddy” cake, and Celine Dion’s Miracle was playing as we entered the house.
Natalie was so happy to see her little brother!

We were finally home together!

The three most important people in my life!
When my doctor was called out to help in the nursery shortly after Theodore’s birth, it was because Teddy was crashing.  Two separate times this happened and he had to be resuscitated.   This unfortunate event was what led the Dr. to recommend sending Teddy to the NICU.
Upon arrival at the NICU, Teddy was diagnosed with IUGR, which basically means that his growth was restricted in utero.  The doctors believe that the cord was wrapped around his neck for 6-8 weeks.  This constricted the flow of oxygen and nutrients to him.  In most cases, the baby would respond to this lack of oxygen by slowly giving up and would either not make it to term, or would be born pale and lifeless with a small head circumference indicative of a small brain. 
In Theodore’s case, for medically inexplicable reasons, his response to the lack of oxygen and nutrients was to overcompensate by producing more blood.  Teddy’s skin was dark purple at birth because he had almost double the blood volume of a normal infant.   His head measured 13 1/4 inches which is within normal range, but his chest measured only 11 1/4 inches.  In essence, Teddy starved his body to feed his brain.   As the doctor said, this is the best case scenario because a baby can always gain weight, but cannot do anything to grow his brain. 
This miraculous overcompensation on Teddy’s part could have also had terrible effects.  With so much extra blood in his little body, it could have pooled in his brain, belly, or another area in his body.  This issue was not detected until the NICU team poked him to draw labs and he started oozing blood, so had he not been transfered to the NICU, this issue may not have been detected early enough.  In producing so much extra blood, the ratio of red blood cells to platelets was way off.  Teddy received multiple transfusions during his stay at the NICU to balance out the composition of his blood.  
Testing had also been done on the placenta and showed that some of the connective tissues that help transport nutrients between the uterus and the placenta had died.  The Dr. informed us that this could possibly mean that Teddy was brain damaged and that further testing was going to be done.  After a long night of prayer, the brain ultrasound came back clear!
When Teddy’s final labs were done, all of his levels were within normal range.  I asked if I would need to be concerned about any of these areas and the Dr. said that any issues that Teddy dealt with during his stay at the NICU had been resolved and I wouldn’t need to worry about them at all.
He is currently receiving a supplement to help him gain weight, and will need a hearing re-screen in a couple of weeks as he did not pass the initial test.
There were so many times that we could have lost Theodore, but God proved his faithfulness again and again.
I could have gone in for a regular prenatal appointment to find out that there were no heart tones… but God spared me.
I could have delivered a stillborn baby… but God spared me.
Teddy could have died in the delivery room… but God spared us.
They could have been unable to resusitate him in the nursery, and Teddy could have left this earth before I ever got to hold him… but God spared us.
Teddy’s miraculous overcompensation in producing blood could have caused him permanent damage or death… but God spared us.
Teddy could have suffered from brain damage… but God spared us.
Teddy overcame every obstacle and beat the odds.  I am so thankful that my Doctor called for a C-section and recommended sending him to the NICU.  I am so thankful to the Dr’s and nurses who cared for him at the NICU and helped save my little boy.  But my doctor said it best… when I thanked him for saving my baby he responded,
“No, that was Him… I was just the facilitator.” 

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