Friday, June 15, 2012

Our 21 Ounce Miracle

Today is our son, Hugh's 9th Birthday so I thought I'd share the story of how he came to be.  This is not easy for me to write about or talk about. I've actually tried to do a post like this in the past, but just can't finish it.  I've realized that I have really suppressed from my daily thoughts all that we went through to bring Hugh into the world.  It was the darkest time of my life and is painful to recall.  However, it is a huge part of who I am and who WE are as a family.  I also feel that God has blessed us with this situation for a reason and that it is our privilege and responsibility to share our story. So here it goes...(this may be kind of long, you might want to grab a drink and snack while you read.)

In the fall of 2002, after a couple of years trying to conceive, we finally saw an infertility specialist.  We had tons of tests done and then went through an IUI (intrauterine insemination) procedure early in January of 2003.  We were told the chances of it working the first time were less than 20%.  It worked!  We were elated!  Things were going fine until March when I began to spot and a blood clot was found via ultrasound.  In addition to the blood clot, the forming placenta was lying too low.  I was terrified we would lose our baby.  I was put on bed rest at home for a month and that helped!  In April I was given the all-clear to go back to work.  However, I never felt well and had another episode of spotting later on.  An appointment on May 5, 2003 with a maternal/fetal medicine specialist told us that everything looked okay and that we were having a baby boy!  We were SO excited and knew right away his  name was going to be Hugh Lane.  Hugh after Ryan's late grandfather and Lane after Ryan's brother.  I was so excited to be able to refer to Hugh by name when I would talk to him in my belly. One of my best memories of this pregnancy was sitting in a rocking chair in the gardening section of Walmart rocking my baby while I waited for my husband who was visiting with a colleague.  I remembering feeling so content and at peace. I'm so glad I had that moment.

At work on May 28, 2003 I tried to go on with my normal day. (I was a third grade teacher with 25 students.) I was feeling quite crampy throughout the whole day though.  I remember sitting still in my chair but having my students bring me my books to teach from so I didn't have to move much.  I spent the whole day like that and the pain seemed to grow worse as the day went on.  I remember just wishing I could poop!  I thought I was just painfully constipated.  After school, I went home and called the doctor.  (Ryan was a baseball coach at that time and was at practice.) The doctor assured me he didn't think anything was wrong but thought I should go on in to get checked out.  By the time Ryan got home, I was getting in and out of the warm bathtub and getting on and off the toilet.  Nothing made it feel better.

The drive to the hospital was long - the hospital was an hour away.  Ryan said to me on the way "Does it really hurt that much?"  I said "I don't know!  I don't know if this pain is really as bad as it feels or if I'm just being a wuss!"  When we arrived at the hospital, I went to the bathroom and found that I was bleeding - a lot!  I was taken to an ER room on the OB-GYN floor.  I remember whipping my clothes off and begging someone to help me.  The doctor first did an ultrasound and found that the baby was fine.  Praise God!  He then tried to examine me but said "Whoa!  I can't touch you.  The bag of water is hanging out.  I can see it. It is going to break at any minute." It was day 1 of week 22 in the pregnancy.

Everything after that is a bit of a blur but I know the doctor asked us if we wanted to "try every trick in the book" or "just let nature take its course." We wanted this baby SO bad and begged them to try everything.  I was put on magnesium to slow the contractions and I was laid upside down in a bed in hopes that gravity would keep pressure off the cervix and keep the water from breaking.  The magnesium was awful.  It made me vomit, it made me disoriented and hot, and it made the room spin.  I was on oxygen as well and I continued to bleed. The doctors and nurses told us that we were losing our baby.  My water would break at any moment, and because he was so small, he would come right on out with the breaking water.  They said there was nothing they could do for a 22 weeker.  We were devastated.  My mom came to the hospital and I found out later that the doctor stood outside my room and told her that he would see what he could do to "salvage" the situation.  He explained to Ryan that he was going to lose his unborn son and possibly his wife. 

The night turned to morning, and that morning to another day, and the days into three weeks.  It was three weeks of hard-core labor - constant contractions (the kind that feels like your spine will split apart), constant bleeding, and constantly adjusting the brethane shots and magnesium to slow the labor.  I thought I was dying.  I had never felt so awful in my life - not physically, mentally, or emotionally.  I kept saying "I just wanted to be a mama!"

During those three weeks the neonatal intensive care unit came to visit us and told us there was nothing they could do to help our baby but make him comfortable.  The hospital explained what services they offered when a baby died - we could have hand and footprints made in clay, pictures taken, we could have a family service in the hospital was heartbreaking.  On one of the days, the nurses had our family leave our room and had Ryan get in the hospital bed with me so the three of us in our little family could have some time alone before we had to tell our baby goodbye. 

On Saturday, June 14, 2003 the OB-GYN on call came into my hospital room and told us that we were getting to the point where the pregnancy may be "viable" but that the baby and I were still in danger.  He said "If it gets to the point where we are in an emergency situation and have to decide, whose life are we to save first?  The baby's or your's?"  How do you answer that?  I remember him standing there looking at us and then saying "Well, talk about it and let me know."  I sobbed to my mom "How do I ask my husband to choose between me and his son?"  We never did give that doctor an answer.  That same day, a neonatologist from the neonatal intensive care unit came in to talk to us again and told us that if Hugh survived the birth, he would be extremely tiny and his skin would be translucent.  We were told his eyes would be fused closed and that he wouldn't be strong enough to cry.  We were told there was about a 10% chance he would survive and, if he did, he would certainly have long-term affects of the premature birth.  I was given a round of steroids to help strengthen his lungs.

The next day, June 15, 2003 was Father's Day.  I was having a very hard day.  The contractions were more intense and very close together.  They gave me brethane shots and cranked the magnesium up as high as it would go.  They also said I had lost too much blood and needed a blood transfusion.  I didn't have much of a choice.  They scooted my bed closer to the window so I could look out the window at the sunny summer day the rest of the world was enjoying, while I laid in bed writhing in pain as someone elses' blood ran through me.  The contractions wouldn't let up no matter how much magnesium they gave me.  Finally at 8:00 p.m. my doctor came in and said to me "Is something else different about today?"  I looked around at my family and Ryan's family and weakly said "yes." I felt like I was letting them all down.  The room was cleared and the doctor checked me to see how far dilated I was.  We were sure my water would break then, but it didn't.  I was fully dilated.  Everyone jumped into action.  The magnesium was turned off and I was wheeled to a very cold, grey, sterile - looking delivery room.  I cried to Ryan as the bed was wheeled down the hall and said "But I wanted Father's Day to be a good day for you."  He just smiled, nodded, and patted my head. 

The delivery room filled up with doctors and nurses from the OB team as well as the NICU team.  They waited until the neonatologist and respiratory therapy team arrived before they broke my water.  I pushed for about 20 minutes and at 8:29 p.m. our teeny, tiny baby boy was born with the placenta wrapped around his feet.  I had been suffering from a placental abruption.  Hugh's eyes were open and he did try to cry.  He was a fighter from the start.  Hugh was 1 pound 5 ounces and 11 1/2 inches long.  As tiny as he was, I still couldn't believe that person came out of my body! They fixed him all up, wheeled him over to me to peek at, and whisked him up to the NICU stopping only for a minute for his grandparents to peek at him too!

I hadn't walked in three weeks.  I hadn't stepped onto the floor in three weeks.  I had been completely bedridden and sometimes bedridden upside-down for three weeks.  I had no muscle left.  I was unable to walk. I had to be helped to the bathroom and the shower.  I had to be in a wheelchair for a while.  I remember my first shower...I stood under the hot water and looked down at my sagging, empty abdomen.  It looked just how I felt - sad and empty.  I really felt very little hope that he would be okay.  I also did not want to get attached to him.  When I saw him the first time in the NICU I was sure it was hopeless.  He would never be a "normal" baby.  He couldn't possibly get as big as a normal baby. My dear, sweet husband had his hands full with me and our tiny baby.  I feel like he sort of coaxed me into motherhood those first few days.  Once I was there though, I couldn't be torn away. 
Hugh at 2 weeks old

Ryan and I spent 105 days back and forth the hour drive to the hospital visiting our tiny son.  We were warned about all the challenges we would face:  retinopathy of prematurity (eyes), heightened risk of infection with no immune system to fight it, getting him to breathe on his own, putting on weight, possible cognitive and physical impairments.  Every eye exam came back fine with no need for surgery. He was two weeks old before I was able to hold him the first time.  We did what they call "Kangaroo Care" where they laid him directly on my bare chest (with no shirt on) so we were skin-to-skin.  Studies show this skin-to-skin contact improves babies' breathing and heart rate and helps them to gain weight.  It was more than a month before he finally hit the two pound mark.  We had a two pound party to celebrate!  He struggled to breathe on his own but overcame all other premature baby obstacles we were faced with. 

By August, he was finally on the nasal cannula receiving oxygen but breathing on his own.  He continued to have episodes of apnea and bradychardia though.  Our family threw us baby showers, but I remember opening gifts at the first shower, and feeling guilty - was I accepting gifts for a baby that I would never bring home?  I remember asking one of Hugh's nurses, LeAnn, when it was "safe" to buy a crib.  She, of course, didn't know how to answer but gently told us that when it felt right to us to go ahead and get it.  We did and we began to allow ourselves to get a little bit excited. 

In September, we had a "Some Assembly Required" party and invited our parents, brothers, sisters and their spouses.  Everyone came together with their tools and got to work putting together everything in one evening:  car seat, baby swing, jumperoo, cradle, crib, bouncy seat, pack -n-play, etc.  My mom sewed curtains for his room.  It was wonderful!  What support we had from our family!

On October 7, 2003, 1 week after his due date and 17 weeks after his birth, Hugh came home with us!  He came home on oxygen and a heart monitor.  But he came home.  Ryan stayed home from work for about a week and then returned, leaving me alone with our fragile baby.  I took a year's leave of absence from teaching to stay home with Hugh.  We had multiple doctor appointments weekly to the various specialists involved in his care.  I became severely exhausted and depressed. My doctor said that often women do awesome while going through a crisis but then crash later. She said it was Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I didn't really want to see people either, I felt embarrassed as if I was a failure having not been able to carry him full term.  I felt like some people looked at us with what I called "sad eyes." To make things much worse, we were extremely protective of Hugh.  We only allowed family and close friends to visit and when they did, we had them scrub in with antibacterial soap and paper towels.  We also had then wear a hospital gown to hold him.  If they had been near anyone who may have been sick, we asked them to wear hospital masks while they were in our home too. Except for his doctor appointments we were very isolated from the rest of the world.  He didn't even visit his grandparents. 

In February of 2004 Hugh came off the oxygen.  He had had it!  He kept pulling off the tubes and seemed to not need it anyway.  His doctor said that sometimes the babies just tell you when they are ready!  In March of 2004 his apnea monitor was discontinued.  It was my peace of mind, the only way I felt I could sleep.  I begged to keep it until he was 18!  He, of course, did fine.  The neonatologist said to get him a cute outfit for Easter and take him to church!  Our first outing! As the weather became milder that spring, so did we!  We began taking him to visit friends and family, for walks to the park, and even the occasional trip to the mall!  That summer I finally began to feel like a real mother with a real baby.

Hugh's first birthday was not only a celebration of his first year of life, but was a celebration of survival for ALL of us.  We overcame so much, we made it through.  We had our son and he was ours to keep!  He was extremely healthy and Hugh never even had a fever until he was 2 1/2 and had his first ear infection.  I sobbed to his pediatrician on the phone at midnight and said "Is he going to die?"  She said "Honey, it's just an ear infection. He'll be fine."  It was hard to adjust to being "normal." 

As his mother, I can't say we have truly reached "normal."  This kid does not have it in him to be average, mediocre, run-of-the-mill.  He is really something.  He has had NO long term affects from the prematurity.  I have worried at every milestone - I worried he wouldn't walk.  Now he runs and climbs trees.  I was worried he wouldn't talk.  Now we'd love to have some quiet time!  I worried he wouldn't be able to read.  The only time he isn't talking is when he is in his "secret reading spot" behind dad's recliner with his nose in a chapter book. He got a medal at the end of the school year for all the books he read and tests he passed this school year.  I once worried he would never eat without a feeding tube.  He is eating us out of house and home - everything!  He is not a picky eater!  He is very busy and creative.  He is full of good ideas - just ask him!  He is compassionate and loving to others.  He is an accomplished hunter and fisherman.  He loves animals and loves to work on the farm with Boppa.  He plays baseball, rides his bike, and is a very strong swimmer.  He is learning to multiply and do fractions.  You would never know the rocky start he had.  He exhausts us, but he is amazing.

Hugh shot his 1st turkey this spring, hunting in the mentor program with his Grandpa Bob.

Near the time Hugh was being discharged from the hospital that fall, my OB who had initially admitted me to the hospital that night came to visit him in the NICU.  He stood staring at his isolette and shook his head in disbelief.  He said "I can't believe you got a baby out of that.  The statistics were completely against you."  I said to my doctor "In our family, we don't do statistics, we do prayer." 

I wrote this poem for Hugh when he was a baby:

Dear Hugh,

You've been our little miracle,
We knew it from the start.
Before we held you in our arms
We held you in our hearts.

A teen, tiny bundle -
You arrived too soon, that's true.
But God has felt our heartache
And the prayers have pulled you through.

The Bible says "Every good and perfect gift
is from above...."
And, Hugh, you are our testimony

of God's great grace and love.

I don't know why God's chosen us
To receive this gift he's given
Our precious little miracle,
Our baby boy from heaven.

Our lives will never be the same
We have something most others never had
We've been given three-and-a-half extra months
To be your mom and dad.



  1. awesome Rebecca! Thanks for sharing... while Kristy and I had no where near the obstacles you all faced, I could relate to much of what you shared, thanks for sharing it and keep allowing God to use your story for His Glory!!! Enjoy Hugh's birthday!

  2. Wow, what an amazing story! I am visitng from Tatertots and Jello and I'm so glad you shared your story. What an amazing gift you have been given and I'm sure God is going to do great things through your son!

  3. what an amazing miracle he is! thank you for sharing; this story was absolutely beautiful, just like your boy!

  4. Wow, what a great story! Thanks so much for sharing, even though I am sure it was hard for you to do. God is so good!

  5. Your boy truly is a miracle and a blessing! What a wonderful and inspiring story!! Thanks for sharing it with all of us! We appreciate you linking up to our "Strut Your Stuff Saturday". Hope you'll come back soon! -The Sisters

  6. Such a truly beautiful story Rebecca, your boy is such a miracle. Thank you for sharing xx

  7. What a beautiful child & a wonderful story. I'm so glad you shared it at my linky party! Congratulations on being such a wonderful mom.

    Warmly, Michelle

  8. Wow.. just wow. What an amazing story and what a strong family you are! My daughter spent 5 weeks in the PICU last year at a hospital 1 1/2 hours away from our home so I know how stressful that is.. What a great story and privilege you have to have been that courageous to overcome all obstacles to bring him into this world... I am a new follower from the mommy brain mixer!

  9. Aren't babies amazing! The smaller they are, the harder the fight. Our 4lb 34 weeker, who is now 30lbs and almost 4 has quite the Napoleon complex. So happy your story ended the way you prayed. Happy birthday big guy!

    New follower from Mommy Mixer.

  10. What a beautiful, beautiful story. Oh the joy that your boy must bring you. God has BIG things planned for him.