Saturday, July 11, 2015

William Knightley Pt. 2 - Birth

Written about one month after Liam was born. 

Less than a week after we found out we were having a little boy, we went in for our next routine check-up. It was April Fool's Day. The doctor asked us if we were interested in screening for diseases like down-syndrome, and we said we didn't care unless it would somehow help us keep our baby healthy. The doctor said it generally wouldn't make a difference, so we declined. He asked if I'd felt any movement yet, and I said I had, but only once. He said it was still really early to be feeling movement, so not to expect anything until 18 weeks. Then he got the doppler out and started looking for the heartbeat. He spent a long time looking, and eventually said we'd get an ultrasound just to be sure. I wasn't worried, since this had happened once before, and I was kind of excited about the idea of getting to see an ultrasound again, especially since Kam hadn't watched most of the last one. We started the ultrasound, and immediately it seemed like something wasn't quite right. Liam wasn't moving, and he looked like he was in a very uncomfortable position. The doctor told us his back was in the way, so it was hard to see the heart. But eventually he showed us the heart and it was obvious it wasn't moving either. The doctor said he was going to get an ultrasound tech to confirm. After he left, I started to panic. I was so afraid of what the ultrasound tech was going to come back and say, I couldn't help but sob. I kept thinking this had to somehow be some sort of sick April Fool's Day joke. Maybe someday we'd tell our son about this and we'd all laugh about it. But then I thought of what he looked like on that ultrasound, and I knew it wasn't a joke. Kam broke down, too. I remember feeling so awkward and helpless, laying on a table with my pants undone, goo on my belly, sobbing. I couldn't hold my husband the way I wanted to. And part of me was still holding out for that ultra-sound tech, hoping she'd come in and tell us it was all a big mistake. But eventually she came in and told us the worst news we could imagine hearing. I still think back about that and feel like it wasn't meant to be us. That's the sort of thing you know happens to someone, somewhere, and you feel sad for them, but it's never supposed to be you. You're luckier than 1 in 100 people, right?

I remember sometime during my pregnancy having this random thought, "You're not going to keep this one." And I was terrified. I worried over it for a little while, but I just couldn't accept it. I thought it had to be just my own paranoia. There was no way that could be true. Eventually, probably after we made it through our first trimester, I had completely forgotten about it altogether. I figured I was in the clear.

Sometime before all of this I had read a blog about a family who lost their baby at 19 weeks, and how the mother decided to deliver her baby instead of getting a D&C. She got to hold her tiny baby and take pictures of him, and I remember thinking, "Poor girl. I would have done the same thing if I were her." When we sat down with the doctor about what our options would be, for some reason he met with us in the "Procedure Room" where I had never been before. That room felt like death. I was afraid he was going to tell me I wasn't far enough along to deliver and that I would have to have a D&C, and I would never get to hold my baby. But he told me the opposite. That because we were past 16 weeks, he didn't offer D&C's that late, and I would be induced sometime that night. My first question for him and every nurse I met after that was whether I could hold my baby, and they all answered, "Of course." The doctor said he would call us later about what time to come into the hospital to be induced, and we went home.

At home, Kam and I got in bed and cried. I later found out that while having the opportunity to deliver was a relief for me, it was an additional source of stress for Kam as he worried about me having to endure that physical pain. We spent some time praying together over Liam, and Kam offered a beautiful prayer asking that he be taken care of until we can return to him and take care of him ourselves. We each called our moms and asked them to come see us. Kam's mom drove down and was with us in about an hour. My mom found a flight for that evening and made it in just in time to go to the hospital with us. Later that night I got a call from my dad, whom I hadn't been able to reach, and he told me he was driving out to give us hugs. Kam and I agreed that we needed to name our baby boy, and that we wanted to give him the name we would have given him if he were still alive. We were sure he was still our baby and that we would get to be with him again someday. Kam had loved the name Liam, but I insisted that if we called our son Liam, his full name would have to be William, so he could sound more grown up on his resume, if he wanted to. So now Kam was suggesting William, and it wasn't difficult for me to agree. We had been considering the middle name Knightley since long before I was pregnant, and at the gender reveal party, Kam's brother pointed out how awesome William Knightley sounded together, and Kam and I were pretty sold on that combination from that point on. Later, when we got to the hospital and we began paperwork, Kam made a point of finding out whether we would have any sort of death certificate we could put Liam's full name on. Fortunately, Utah law had recently changed to require a stillbirth certificate after 16 weeks rather than 20 weeks, so we got to put his full name down on paper.

We had a couple of the leaders from our congregation at church come to our house to give us a blessing. The blessings were so strengthening, and I specifically remember mine saying that I would be blessed with the power to recognize the lies of the adversary, which I didn't understand at the time, but have come to appreciate since. One of the men shared a message with us about how when Christ comes again we will have the opportunity to raise the children we have lost, just like we would have been able to do if Liam had been born living, only after Christ comes we will have the opportunity to raise him in a perfect world, where he won't suffer pains or trials or temptations. I had known we would see Liam again, but I didn't know how. I didn't know if we'd ever have the opportunity to see him as a child, or if in heaven we would all be adults. So this was an incredible comfort to me. Kam's friend Ethan also came over with dinner around the same time, and shared with us his feelings about his older brother who had died at about the same age as Liam. He talked about feeling his brother looking out for him when he was alone, and I could imagine what he meant. I never felt as close to Liam while I was pregnant with him as I did after we knew he was gone.

We went into the hospital that night around eleven. The staff was expecting us and were all very sensitive to what we were about to go through. I never thought about it until long after we left the hospital, but we were given a very quiet room away from all the other delivering mothers. I now appreciate that I had never had to think about that myself. After giving answers to paperwork and getting poked with an IV, I was administered my first round of cytotec to induce contractions. Around 1 am, the nurse left and I planned to go to sleep, but Kam suggested I take the sleeping pill they offered me that I had refused. I figured he probably knew better than I did. I felt so numb, I could barely think. So I called the nurse right back in to administer the sleeping pill. As soon as she left that time I started to feel some cramps, but thought they were mild enough to ignore, especially with a sleeping pill. About 15 minutes later, though, I realized the pain was getting a lot stronger a lot more quickly than I was expecting. I called the nurse again, and by the time she came in I was in agony. She began to administer half of the maximum dose of narcotic through the IV, and told me it should start working pretty quickly. I was curled up in fetal position asking her how quickly, and why wasn't it working yet, when suddenly I felt a small pop in my abdomen, and the pain suddenly vanished. It was like someone had hit an off switch. The nurse was mid-sentence trying to calm my anxiety when I interrupted her with a slightly sheepish, "Oh. It's gone now."

I slept for only a couple hours, before I noticed the pain again and had to have the nurse begin another dose of narcotics. At 6 am the nurses switched, and I received my next dose of cytotec. This time I took the full dose of narcotics, and still didn't feel like I was getting much of a benefit out of it, but when nurses asked me if I was having contractions I wasn't sure what to say because I just felt like I was having cramping all over that didn't stop. At some point Kam and my mom started talking to me about whether I wanted to get an epidural, and suggested I ask the nurse what the anesthesiologist's schedule was. I did, and the nurse left to find the anesthesiologist. At one point while she was gone, I felt like I was going to puke, so I sat up really fast, and my mom grabbed a bucket from the closet for me. I ended up just burping for a long time. Kam had stepped out to find the nurse, so when he came back in he was concerned to see me leaning over a bucket, and I had a hard time explaining to him that I was fine now, and that I was only burping.

When the nurse came back she told me the anesthesiologist would be available in about 5 minutes, or in an hour after that. I was starting to feel like the narcotics weren't doing much anymore, so I asked her to have him come in the 5 minutes. By the time the anesthesiologist came in and got everything ready, I had no question about whether I was having contractions, and couldn't get the epidural soon enough. Reflecting on it now, I actually feel some comfort from knowing I got to experience contractions when I was delivering Liam. It made the whole experience feel a little more real, and I have one more memory to hold on to now. It's also just a comfort to know there's one more thing I got to do for my baby that other mothers do for their babies.

Shortly after I began to feel the effects of the epidural, the nurse left and said she would return in a little while to put in my catheter (the only reason I hadn't gotten the epidural sooner). She wanted to be sure I was completely numb before she started that. I was thankful for that, but after only about 10 minutes of her being gone, I suddenly felt like I had to pee, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to hold it back. My mom ran into the hall to get the nurse, but returned alone. I yelled that I didn't think I could hold it back anymore, and she pulled another pink bucket out of the closet. She got that placed underneath me, and told me everything was fine, and I could go, but nothing came. I still felt the urge, and I figured I just couldn't control it and that it was still coming. The nurse came in a moment later, and as she started to walk towards the bed, I realized what I was feeling wasn't pee at all, and just a second later, I heard her say, "Oh, here comes your baby."

We knew that because Liam was so tiny, he would probably come very quickly and unexpectedly, and that I probably wouldn't have to push. We also knew the doctor probably wouldn't have time to catch him. But I was glad my mom and the nurse were there when it happened. The nurse called in another doctor who was available, and he helped deliver the placenta while my two nurses cleaned Liam up and wrapped him in a blanket. I remember delivering the placenta and Kam asking if it was intact, because we were both worried it wouldn't detach and I would need a D&C to remove the rest. The doctor said it looked like it was. I'm still strangely flattered at how concerned Kam was about me at my lowest and grossest point in my life.

It was a strange relief to be done with labor as I waited for someone to bring me my baby. The past twenty-four hours had been a nightmare and I finally felt like it was coming to an end, even though things weren't exactly getting better. I'd played through multiple scenarios of miracles in which Liam would get to live, and now it was obvious none of those were coming true. But even that was a small comfort, as I no longer had to put so much effort into wondering and hoping.


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