Because a mom needs to reflect sometimes, I’m sharing the birth stories of each of my children as we count down the weeks to Baby Whitaker. Most of these were pre-blog days, so while I share these with you, I’m really writing these for the kids. And, here’s hoping I don’t cause them to duck under the nearest table from embarrassment.
If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, then you’re no stranger to our youngest (currently!) kiddo, Luke. He’s the only child to have fully grown up on the blog and he may – or may not – thank me later.
If you really want to dive into the rabbit hole, you can read this post and then click on day one of our 44-day NICU stay. While I have recounted his birth story on the blog, four-plus years provides me with some perspective I didn’t have back in 2009, so here’s my take nearly five years later.
The pregnancy with Luke started out normally and then we were sucker punched at 20 weeks. We had no idea then the path that lay before us. And in retrospect, I’m so glad we didn’t. I surely would’ve called CHICKEN and run away like a lunatic. Luke was officially diagnosed as an IUGR baby. Layman’s terms? He was growth restricted and my placenta and uterus did a really lousy job growing him. At 20 weeks he didn’t even tip the scales at a pound. The maternal fetal medicine specialist didn’t waste the sugar when he gave it to us straight:
Viability was low.
IF we made it to 24-weeks, it’s likely he would be born prematurely and have significant medical obstacles to overcome.
IF we made it farther, his small size would make the number of complications increase exponentially and we were all but guaranteed a NICU stay. For how long and with what prognosis, nobody could forecast for certain.
Lovely. We enlisted some serious prayer warriors. Twitter was barely on the social media scene, Pinterest didn’t exist and I had just bought my first smartphone a few months prior to Luke’s birth. So, I turned to the blog and Facebook. I have no idea what prayers you people prayed, but they were mighty and we miraculously made it to 36 weeks. That visit to the doctor showed a baby that was no longer growing and I was ordered to the hospital for an induction within 24 hours. I naively thought I had plenty of time to get my hair done and finish all the “last-minute” baby preparation I dreamed of doing until my OB called and told me to get my hiney to Seton Main in less than 12 hours.
Induction began with pitocin around 7am on September 18 and we all had high hopes that a vaginal, normal delivery was in my future. After all, this had worked for four other babies, why not Luke?
LOLOLOLOLOLOL. Hold on, had to pick myself up off the floor. Luke has proven to be quite the stinker and if I knew then what I know now, I just would’ve ordered the c-section right then and there.
At 11am, the contractions were brutal and I paged anesthesia. This is usually when the epidural goes in and an hour or so later I’m at 10cm and we push. Except, we didn’t. Something just wasn’t right. My water was broken by my OB and my college roommate (also an OB at the hospital) dropped by to check on me. It just so happened to be her surgery day. At 3pm, the pain came back and anesthesia was paged, again, to redo the epidural. This is about the time I really started freaking out. At 4:30, Dr. W came in and we both saw the heartrate dip drastically with each contraction. She was kind enough to give me the option of waiting another half hour to see if things changed, or moving forward with a c-section.
You do not want to know what I wanted to say.
Instead, I found myself saying these words: prep the OR and let’s get this done. I was scared, y’all. Like the kind of scared I’ve never been before. Terrified might be a better word. It wasn’t so much the c-section. This delivery wasn’t going at all like we planned. And for OCD control freaks that just really puts us under the table. Providentially, God put a beautiful friend in that room with us that day, Luke’s Godmother. She is a cancer survivor, a wee bit fiesty and she’s delivered five babies via the section. She grabbed my hands, looked at me and said, “Kathryn, you can do this.”
Thank God for you, Melanie Tucker.
She got Scott ready and calm for the delivery, while I was rushed to the OR. The nurse made the comment, “Oh, we always move this fast.”
LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE.
Within minutes, I was prepped, crying and feeling the cool hand of my anesthesiologist on my forehead. Y’all, I can tell you right now, had that man not been stroking my head and saying such reassuring things before Scott arrived in the room, I would’ve passed out. I so wish I could find out his name and hug his ever-livin’ neck. I felt Scott’s hand on my shoulder, peeked over the curtain to see Dr. W and she made the announcement, “Okay, Kathryn, here comes the incision.”
There was so much tugging and pulling and pushing and I remember thinking, “Why the hell does this hurt so much!?”
Then came the cries. From the whole damn room. Luke came out screaming his lungs off and all the doctors and nurses yelled, “It’s a boy!”
The time was 5:37pm.
Neonatology grabbed him first and did a quick assessment. I kissed his sweet cheeks and most definitely left a few tears where my lips had been. Scott and I caught one another’s eyes and in that moment, I knew. I knew that no matter what crazy we were about to experience, Scott and I were going to do it together, with an amazing amount of love and support from God.
Then, his phone rang. It was our then-Interim Bishop Mulvey checking on us. Everyone at Scott’s office had been following our progress closely. At every key moment of Luke’s life, Bishop Mulvey has called. It’s as if he has a direct line to God and knows right when we need reassurance. We love that man.
Luke weighed in at 3lbs. 9.4 oz. and 16.5 inches long. After kissing his sweet face, neonatolgy took over and he headed up to the neonatal intensive care unit. I ordered Scott to go. I had a roomful of doctors and nurses to watch over me, Luke had Scott and that is right where he needed to be. Recovery that first hour was brutal, as was the 12 hours that followed. No need to relive that nightmare.
We learned later that Luke’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his head and neck, causing his heart rate to dip with every contraction. Thank you, God, for modern medicine. In that moment of fear, we still said yes to the c-section and it likely saved his life, and that wouldn’t be the last time.
At 11am the following morning, Scott got me propped up in the wheelchair and I held Luke for the first time. No words, y’all. None. I know my fellow NICU preemie moms understand that feeling.
In every way, big and small, Luke’s life has not only changed ours but so many others. I sometimes reflect on his birth and our NICU stay and think “did all that really happen?” Yes. Yes, it did. I saw the true heart of Jesus during our neonatal stay, seven surgeries and nine other hospital stints. It is a beautiful, merciful, loving heart that walked every mile, every procedure, every joyous moment, every hellish one and everything in between. He saw our hearts and He changed them. Luke really is the best thing that ever happened to our family.