Blessings and Miracles: Liam's Birth Story
***On the anniversary of his beautiful birth, Liam's mommy put his birth story into words. I am so honored that she has graciously allowed me to share them here!***
A story about joy in the midst of suffering, peace in the midst of chaos, angels, miracles, and the like. :)
"I remember us talking about how we envisioned our "birth story" being, the way people get to pick and choose options these days - arrange the setting, music, guest list, etc. - as though it were a wedding or something. We were private people when it came to something like childbirth, so had envisioned just Will and I in the room with the doctors and nurses, and only immediate family visiting a few hours later.
But as life goes, things don't always go as planned. Liam's birth story ended up being the furthest and wildest thing from what we could've imagined, and was anything but conventional, or private for that matter - hence my sharing this story and these images. I've become a lot more open than I used to be through our journey this past year, and just felt it’s more than just “our story” because we would’ve been worthless through it without all of the love, support and prayers from all of you!! So it kinda feels like your story now, too. And I wanted to tell you and show you how unexpectedly beautiful things going not as planned turned out to be, to hopefully help encourage you to hope in the midst of suffering and plans gone “wrong” - that there are still silver linings and other beautiful gifts to be discovered there, too. Just trust God with it all, stay flexible, and watch what happens. :)
So instead of our picture-perfectly-imagined birth story - when I went in to labor, Will had been in ICU for 20 days, in an induced coma for the better part of that. While he was still fighting for his life on a ventilator, he had just been taken off of full sedation a couple of days prior, as he was under the care of a new doctor with an "awake on the ventilator" treatment plan. It was a gift to be able to get to speak to him for the first time in 3 weeks since he suddenly was unable to breath on his own following gallbladder removal surgery due to severely compromised lungs from double pneumonia, which then resulted in ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). We had been praying that even if he couldn't be present for Liam's birth, he would be awake at least, and coherent enough for us to bring him up to date with what had happened to him and be able to process the news that he wouldn't be able to be with us for Liam's arrival. We were all heartbroken, but give the prior three weeks of events, we were just grateful that he wasn't in a coma for this event. The hope was that he could "FaceTime" in for the birth.
I'd decided I wanted my sister Rachel and BFF Julie with me in Will's place. I ended up with what felt like an army of people who showed up to help make the experience not only bearable, but so special and joyful.
As word had spread of our unique and tragic situation, two ladies in particular came forward, offering their birth services as a gift. One was a birth photographer. She generously wanted to capture Liam's birth to preserve the experience so that Will could "be there" through them someday. *tears* The other was a Doula, or birth coach. She offered to be my primary support in Will's place, to help make the experience easier with her knowledge and expertise. *more tears*. Both of these then strangers, stayed by my side for over 24 hours straight. They became bonus sisters to me through that. I've truly thought they might be angles. With the two of them added to my "birth team" of amazing nurses, doctors, sisters, mothers, and friends - I'd never felt so carried by others. I'm not sure I've ever been quite so humbled and loved in that way. It was the most beautiful experience I never imagined.
After going in to labor on the night I was due to check in to be induced the following morning, I was in labor for 32 hours total, pushing for 2.5 of those in the early morning hours of the 25th. They finally determined that due to his weight they needed to go ahead and do a C-Section. Contrary to most reactions I've gotten, I wasn't upset. I knew there was a good chance it would end in a C-Section, as I come from a long line of C-Section only births for various reasons, for generations. So I was actually excited that I got to experience a "natural birth" labor all the way up until the very end - it was sort of a "rite of passage" thing I'd always been curious about since nobody in my family had gotten that far with a natural delivery before. I was grateful for the journey, my girl squad, and grateful there is such a thing as C-Sections so that we could finish our birth marathon safely for everyone.
Will had been able to FaceTime from ICU, which was on the floor below Labor + Delivery, with the help of his mom holding the phone, as his hands were still too weak to hold up a phone. He hadn't been and shouldn't have been able to speak, as the tracheotomy for the ventilator prevented any sound from coming out when he tried to mouth words. However those few days during Liam's birth, a connector was lose that had allowed an air bubble in to the tubing somehow that they had yet to resolve. The effect of this "hiccup" was that, it made his voice barely audible! He was able to talk through a faint whisper. What a gift!! To get to hear my husbands voice, even if just barely - to see his eyes, awake, and his familiar smile that I'd missed while he was in a coma for those previous weeks - oh, how it gave me strength I needed for this! When I had gone by to visit him just before I went up to check in to Labor + Delivery, I got to sit by his bedside and hold his hand and we spent a few quiet moments together. I'd been pretty strong, but for a moment I felt weak and a little afraid, and tearing up, shared with him that I didn't know if I could do this without him, and that I sure didn't want to. He had the strength somehow to be a calming and encouraging rock for me in that moment, and somehow proceed to give me a "pre-birth pep talk" of sorts - when he shouldn't have been able to speak! I remember through forced whispers, hearing him tell me this: "You are SO strong. You can do this, and you will do amazing. God will be with you, and He will strengthen you. You don't need to worry about anything - you're going to be fine, Liam will be fine, and I will be fine. I love you SO much, and I am SO proud of you! I will be right here, praying for you, and I'll see you and talk to you soon." I've thought back through that and wondered how in the world we were able to have that conversation with his condition. Air bubbles or pure miracle, the timing of it all was such evidence of God's grace to the both of us to help us feel united and encouraged despite the distance and sadness of not being able to physically be the the same room for the arrival of our first child.
By the time I was wheeled in to the OR and prepped for surgery, I was in and out of consciousness myself from sheer exhaustion of being awake, in labor, and starving for 32 hours straight. Oh, but I remember it all. How could I forget? Eyelids slam. It was dark, but bright at the same time. I opened them and saw everyone in scrubs. I saw my best friend, and my big sister, and my new birth photographer friend, in the army of scrubs as well. I saw my husband's face on a phone screen hovering above me. He had tubes all over him. I had tubes all over me. What a pair. I was so happy to just see his critically ill face at this big moment. I felt peaceful. I had done all that I could, and now my job was to be still, and wait. Eyelids slam again. I heard Dr. Bracy praying over me, for herself and her team and for Liam's and my safety. Then I felt a strange pressure, and tried to keep my eyelids from flying open when I realized that was the knife slicing me in half. At that moment my anesthesiologist Jeff (because you remember the people who stop the pain) became my favorite person in the room. It was only a matter of minutes before I felt pressure in, pressure out - then my body felt empty. At the same moment, I heard my baby's voice for the first time. He screamed loud and clear a beautifully! He was here!! My heavy eyes burst in to tear instantaneously. I was sobbing with joy and relief. "10 pounds!" I heard someone say. No wonder he needed to arrive via C-Section!
It was a few minutes before they had him cleaned up and brought him over to me. I remember that first moment holding him, it just felt like "Finally!!" as though I'd known him forever but we'd just been kept apart through skin. It was the best and most right feeling in the world, finally being face to face. I remember it still as our first moment as a family of three - our new baby swaddled up by my head, and my sweet Will hovering above us via FaceTime. Thank God for technology.
The next few hours were a blur - I slept on and off while holding him on and off. Through the haze of it all, I remember my nurse Tiffany - who I also came to believe was an angel - asking me about my husband's condition. As I'd told her what I could, she drew the conclusion that we'd all come to, that it would be a good while before he'd be able to meet Liam face to face, not to mention before I'd get to visit him again since I was now recovering from surgery. I remember her saying, "I just... really think you all need to see each other." I'd replied with a "Wouldn't that be nice / they'd never let us / it's bad form to take a newborn in to ICU territory" response, echoing what I'd been told by the ICU nurses when I'd inquired - then fell back asleep.
While I slept, she called all of the Doctors involved - including Liam's pediatrician, and got special approval for us to make a stop off at ICU when we were in route to my recovery room. When I woke up for them to move us, she tried to explain what we were going to do but I didn't believe it till I saw it. I didn't think they'd let us. Before I knew it, they'd moved me to a wheelchair, and safely enclosed Liam in a NICU cart. An army of nurses showed up and wheeled us down to the first floor, and sure enough, through the ICU doors. I couldn't believe it! Will was going to get to hold our baby just hours after he arrived, in spite of the circumstances! This was another miracle only God could've arranged and sent angels to implement.
Rachel and Julie got to come in too, and take a few photos and some video of our first meeting together. It was the most unexpected gift, getting to watch my sick but awake husband cradle our sweet new babe. Liam was crying when they took him out of his "baby cage" and handed him to Will but as soon as he was in Will's arms, he was quiet, and stared at him with big wide eyes. It was precious!
The days to follow got sweeter with Liam and scarier with Will, but we know the rest of that story now and I'll skip ahead to the good part - Will was HEALED, and came home only about 35 days behind Liam and I."
As I said on Liam's birthday post yesterday, my love for this INCREDIBLE family is boundless and I am so blessed to have been invited into such a sacred birth-space and now to continue to know them as friends <3