It was an ordinary evening a couple of month’s into our pregnancy with our daughter. My wife, Amanda, told me that she felt wet like there might be amniotic fluid leaking from her. We both agreed that she should call the nurses line and talk with someone to help her decide if something was wrong and whether we may need to go to hospital. We were extra afraid of things going wrong given our prior experience. The nurse on the phone asked her a few questions that didn’t give us a clear idea of which way to go. The nurse’s final guidance was that, in the end, if you think something is wrong then you should go into the ER and get evaluated, but there wasn’t anything that was a clear sign of danger.
Amanda asked me, “What should we do?”
“Well, do you feel like something’s wrong?”
“I don’t know, but I feel like something is leaking and that scares me. But there’s not really anything there.”
“I can’t feel what you’re feeling but if you want to go into the ER, let’s go.”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to go in for nothing and get charged a bunch of money.”
“It is what it is. If you feel like we should go, then let’s go. If you don’t, let’s not.”
Amanda eventually decided to make an appointment with our doctor rather than go the the ER.
At our appointment, Dr. Rogers [name changed] just laid it on us straight, “Your body is going to decide for itself whether it wants to go forward with this pregnancy or not. Obviously don’t do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise, and when I place the cerclage, you’ll have that additional support. But ultimately, your body is going to make the decision.”
Amanda and I didn’t like this guy and what he saying with his stupid clogs on. We wanted to do whatever we can to stack the deck in our favor and he just dismissed that. “That guy can eat it, we’re gonna do whatever we can. So you’ll just take it easy until we get the cerclage.”
A few weeks later, we went in for the surgery appointment with Dr. Rogers to place the cerclage. Shortly before the surgery, Dr. Rogers stopped by to visit us. “How we doing?” he said.
“We’re good. How are YOU doing? Are you ready for this?”
Pfft. “I’m always ready,” he said with a dismissive, sarcastic tone.
But honestly, if this arrogant toad had just put his tea cup down, I would have politely asked, “mo’ tea sir?”
The surgery well smoothly and the rest of the pregnancy proceeded normally. We began to relax and happily anticipate our daughter’s arrival.
We had several visits where scans and ultrasounds were taken. One provider who looked at Dr. Roger’s cerclage, remarked, “Yeah, he’s got that in there high and tight. Nice work. He’s a douche but he’s good.” As it goes, I had decided to give a pass to doctors who always bring their A-game. If the price of great performance is putting up with bigheadedness, then okay.
After scans in the last months of the pregnancy, we received some reports of abnormal indicators. The perinatologist’s report said that the umbilical cord was wrapped about our baby’s neck. More alarmingly, the scans picked calcium deposits in the heart that may lead to other problems. This was exactly not what we wanted to hear and all the fears from before put a dark cloud over what was becoming a happy time. But the doctor group assured us that we shouldn’t be alarmed until there is something definitive to be alarmed about.
There were no other problems over the next few weeks. We had gotten into the groove of being ready for the big day. We had packed an overnight bag and Amanda had bought a “labor music” album of hip but gentle versions of popular songs. Amanda was dutifully following the diet and glucose testing protocols of Sweet Success, a program helping mothers manage gestational diabetes.
As we neared the due date, our doctor team recommended that we induce labor because of the gestational diabetes. On the day we were scheduled to induce, there was a lot of birth activity, so there were no beds available, and the inducement had to be postponed.
“Can’t you call someone and ask if they can squeeze us in? You’re a Director.”
“I can’t call them and ask to jump the line. That wouldn’t be right. Someone else in a bad way might get put off for us. Plus, she might say no and be offended that I asked.”
Eventually, later that night, we received the call to come in for the inducement. We left my mother, who had come down to help with the new baby, and Amanda’s mother at home to come later closer to the birth. We had settled into the room and Amanda was hooked up to monitors with her heart and our daughter’s heart rate beeping. As the night rolled on, Amanda when into labor and unlike TV shows, labor can be a slow process that takes hours. Various extended family members stopped by including Amanda’s sister and her husband and the two grannies.
Amanda labor contractions had become more intense and closer together. Amanda wanted me to hold her hand through the intense contractions. We also started noticing that our daughters heart rate would race and then slow down to normal rate. And we held hands while our daughter’s heart rate raced and then we relaxed as the heart rate slowed down. Amanda then announced that she thought it was getting close to time. So her sister and I started help Amanda get positioned.
At this point, her sister wondered out load, “Where’s the nurse?”
“Well, she would be here if something was wrong. I know these monitors are go to a central station where someone is looking at it. They would be here if something was wrong.”
For a couple more contraction cycles, our daughter’s heart rate would race sending us into a fright and then slow down. Race and then slow down.
Finally, our nurse entered the room and told her about the cycles of racing and a slowing. The nurse interrupted us and said, “Your baby is crashing. We’ve got to get a CRASH C-Section started now!” The nurse called in the doctor who confirmed with us that we wanted the surgery. With that, a surgery team came in like a NASCAR pit crew, unhooking wires and releasing the bed. They rushed Amanda from our room past our families and into a surgical room set up for emergency Cesarean sections and within minutes the surgery to save our baby had begun.
–What I only later came to understand was that what was actually happening during Amanda’s contractions was that the umbilical cord was tightening around our daughter’s neck with each contraction, cutting off access to blood and oxygen. In the moments when her heart rate would slow and we would think things were okay, actually, she was so oxygen starve that her heart was slowing, crashing. Just thinking about this makes me sick and ashamed that I didn’t know any better and didn’t know how to fight for my family. I trusted that the monitors and alarms would bring help when it was needed. However, at the same time our daughter was being choked to death by her own umbilical cord, our nurse was handling another difficult labor that resulted in another emergency cesarean. She was a hero in that immediately coming off the other case she didn’t pause or waver but was right back in action for us.–
After Amanda was behind the doors of the surgery area, we waited in the hallway. A nurse on the surgery team brought me back to an anteroom, instructed to put on a clean-room suit, we affectionately call a bunny-suit, and told me that she would be back to get me shortly. After I put on the bunny-suit, I sat at the changing bench and wept. And then as an avowed non-religious person, I tried to talk to God.
“I’m not in a position to negotiate, I will do anything; I will give or do anything for them both to live. If you take them, you take everything that matters to me. Please, just let them live.”
Just then, the nurse returned and sat down beside me, “You want a moment to get yourself together?”
I nodded and faintly, I could hear a crying baby in the distance. I turned to the nurse and she smiled.
“Yeah, that’s your daughter. Want to go meet her?”