A little more than 8 years ago, Jared & I took a trip to Utah. Six months previously, we had moved from Salt Lake City to Southern California so that he could attend chiropractic school. This trip was going to be fun--not only were we going to visit friends and family, but our sister-in-law was hosting a baby shower for me. Our first baby (whom we were already calling Kimball,) was due in 7 weeks and everything was going according to plan.
I remember noticing on the flight up how active Kimball was. The flight was particularly turbulent and he seemed to be responding in kind. As a first time pregnant mother and a born worrier, I found it very soothing to have him moving around. It meant that all was well.
Over the course of the weekend, I had moments when I wondered why I wasn't feeling him moving more. It was a very busy weekend and we rushed from one activity to the next, so I figured that I just was too busy to notice his movements. Saturday evening, after the baby shower, I had a glass of milk and laid down to do kick counts. His activity wasn't as strong as it had been on Friday morning, but I could feel him moving around and I felt relieved.
Sunday was also busy, but Sundays are a different kind of busy for us. We attend church whether we are home or away, so I had some quiet time to be still. One trend that I had noticed throughout my pregnancy was that Kimball really responded to music, especially if I was singing, so I was used to having him "dance" in my belly during the hymns. But today, he wasn't moving around. Strange. I was concerned, but tried to push it out of my mind.
After church we had dinner with Jared's family. I laid down for a few minutes to do some kick counts, but before I knew it, it was time to head off to the airport. He wasn't moving around and I knew that it could be that he was just sleeping, but I really wanted him to wake up and reassure me. On the flight home I did nothing but focus on my belly, willing the baby to move around. I finally said something to Jared as the plane landed that I was afraid that something was wrong--I hadn't felt the baby move very much all weekend, and not at all that day.
When we got home, I asked Jared to give me a priesthood blessing. This involves him placing his hands on my head and pronouncing a blessing on me, as inspired and directed by the Holy Ghost. The blessing was beautiful and he told me that our baby was alive and was meant to be a part of our family. He said that even then, Kimball was there, observing our faith. We were comforted and went to sleep. But when I woke up the next morning, I still hadn't felt him move.
I knew that the rules were that you called your doctor if it had been 24 hours with no movement. I called the doctor's office and they suggested that I come in after lunch to get checked out. I took a half-day teaching assignment (I was substitute teaching elementary school at the time) since I felt fine and I figured it would take my mind off the worry a bit. I was pretty calm all morning, since the doctor's office hadn't acted alarmed, plus I had faith that the words of Jared's blessing had been from the Lord. Nevertheless, as I sat in the doctor's office waiting for my turn (which was a long time any time I went to that office,) my anxiety increased. When I finally got into see the doctor and she checked for a heartbeat, I was afraid she was going to give me terrible news. As soon as I heard a heartbeat, I started crying, but I also was overwhelmed with relief. I had been making a mountain out of a molehill. There was nothing wrong with my baby and I was just a neurotic first-time mom.
But the doctor decided to do a quick ultrasound just to take a look. Then she asked me if my water had broken. No? Was I sure? Maybe she'd just check--perhaps I just hadn't noticed. No, my bag of waters had not ruptured. She turned to me and calmly said, "You seem to be a little low on fluid. Very low, in fact. I'd like you to go to the hospital for some observations. Hopefully we'll be able to get your amniotic fluid levels higher. It probably won't be any big deal. Oh, and please go straight to the hospital. Don't go home first to wait for your husband."
What? That sounded pretty serious. She left quickly to call the doctor from the practice who was on rounds at the hospital and I left; I had to go home, since I'd walked to the doctor's appointment. It was just a block away and it had seemed silly to drive. I stayed home long enough to call Jared's school and asked them to page him (it was long before either of us had a cell phone,) and phoned my mom at work. Just saying the words that they wanted me to go in for observations made me sob. The school where she teaches is on the way to the hospital, and she said, "Pick me up, you can't go alone." I guess she just got another teacher to take her class for the last half hour--I wasn't even thinking about it at the time.
We got to the hospital and Jared arrived while we were checking in. They strapped me to all the machines and put an IV in to try to up my fluid intake. Now that I've had four kids, I know how to read the monitors and figure out what's going on, but it was my first time having a non-stress test and I was clueless. I had been there for about 20 minutes when the doctor came in. He was just out of surgery. He took one look at the results of my monitors and said, "We are going to deliver this baby in 15 minutes. What do you need from me?"
We were aghast. We asked for a minute alone so that Jared could give me another blessing. My mom ran out the door and down the hall, hoping she'd make it back with the video camera in time (she did--barely). Jared's blessing told me again that Kimball would live, but it also said something about our trials strengthening us, which was a little scary. I felt very close to Jared and to Heavenly Father then.
As soon as we had finished, a nurse handed Jared some scrubs and told him to change quickly--they weren't going to wait for him-- and started prepping me for surgery. Dr. Roca wasn't kidding. Kimball was born less than 15 minutes after he first saw me. It was so fast. Now that I've had three other c-sections that were not emergencies, I realize how fast it was. They started cutting before Jared was even in the room. They shoved around my organs, which is a funky feeling because it doesn't hurt, but you can definitely feel them in there; so, they pushed around my organs, found my uterus, and pulled out a baby. I wept with relief as I heard his cry.
"It's a boy!" Dr. Roca announced.
"How big is he?" I demanded, over and over, until they could tell me. I figured that size really matters when it comes to preemies and survival.
"2 lbs, 15 oz" came the reply.
Now my tears of relief turned to sobs. That was too small. I had been reading all those pregnancy books daily--they were my other scriptures--and I knew that he should have been much, much bigger at 33 weeks.
He seemed to be breathing fine, so they wrapped him up and brought him over to see me before whisking him off to the NICU.
I don't remember much after that because they put me under. I've learned since then that this is pretty standard in an emergency c-section. They had a lot of repair work to do since they'd had to work so quickly.
When I woke up in recovery, Jared was there. He had been with Kimball. The baby was very small and very skinny, but was breathing on his own. Since my anesthesia had been so quickly administered, I couldn't move the lower half of my body or sit up for 12 hours, so I couldn't go see Kimball. Jared took video of him and then brought it to my room to show me our son. He was so small and you could see all his ribs and most of his bones. He had blond hair. I thought that he resembled a little cricket. My little cricket. I was so grateful that he was okay.
The following days and weeks were an emotional roller coaster for us. We watched his weight like a day trader watches the stock market. Every ounce that he gained gave us reason to rejoice. They ran lots of tests on him, with varying results. Some days it felt like everything was going to be fine. Some days we were afraid that he'd suffered severe brain damage, the effects of which were yet unknown. Always, we prayed for peace and for Kimball to come home soon.
Leaving the hospital without my baby was so difficult. I cried and cried all the way home. I don't wish that on anyone. We then began the exhausting ordeal of going to the hospital every six hours around the clock. I was trying to breastfeed him, although for a couple of weeks he didn't have a sucking reflex, and we also did "kangaroo care" at those visits. This was a fairly new protocol that involved giving the baby skin-to-skin time to help him thrive. We sang to him and held him on our chests. Jared came as often as he could--at least once every day. He was in the middle of finals of his second semester of grad school--not great timing, but somehow he managed.
Finally, when he was 30 days old, Kimball came home from the hospital. He weighed 4 lbs, 4 oz, and had finally shown that he could manage 8 feedings a day from the bottle or breast. I had a freezer full of milk that I'd pumped (since his appetite was minute compared to my supply)--in fact, those bottles in the freezer lasted us six months! He still had a long road to "catch up," but he was home. We were so grateful.
I look back on those first days and weeks of his life and am filled with wonder and gratitude. I'm so thankful that he lived. Dr. Roca told us after the delivery that Kimball probably wouldn't have survived much longer in the womb. Hours could have made the difference. They never did figure out exactly what was wrong. My placenta failed and stopped producing amniotic fluid. Their best guess is hypertension, but the only day that they recorded an elevated blood pressure was the day he was born, and that can certainly be explained. Thankfully we have not had the same problem with my other pregnancies.
Our little boy was and is a fighter. Some days I have to remind myself that his intensity and stubbornness probably saved his life! He is such a blessing to us and sets a good example to his brothers and sister. He especially shows so much love and consideration for Bronwen, which warms my heart. I can't believe that he is already 8 years old. The next thing I know, he'll be heading off to college. Please slow down, precious son! I don't want these years to slip away from us.