August 14th~ Part II~ Ana’s Birth Story

I have thought and reflected and processed this day and this night hundreds of times in my head since that day a little over a year ago, and yet, every time I do, I still feel more and more thankful for God’s graciousness towards us. And His goodness. And His ever preset faithfulness. So, join me as I tell you the story of my sweet miracle’s birth. The day that God reminded me just how amazing He really is.

If you didn’t read the previous post about the day and a half leading up to this, click here. If you did read it, you will remember that it was around 5PM on Thursday, August 14th. and I was being wheeled up to the Labor and Delivery floor for the third time since my admission to Beth Israel hospital only 6 days ago. I don’t remember too much about that ride up the elevator, except that I was calling Esteban frantically, trying to get him to get to the hospital fast. He knew what was up as soon as he heard my voice. He was on his way back, but there was traffic. He says that the next hour was one of the most stressful hours of his life, as he wove through Boston traffic as fast as he could, helplessly pleading with God for his wife and his tiny baby daughter.

In that time, I was wheeled back in Room 1–the same room I had been in with I first arrived at this hospital on Saturday. The doctors and nurses were bustling around me, talking in urgent, hushed tones, and hooking me up to IV’s and monitors, magnesium, and taking vitals. I was starting to get hot and nauseous as the intense magnesium bolus entered my body. They checked my cervix, timed my contractions, and checked my blood pressure. At one point, a nurse cupped my face with her hands, and said, “Sweetie, I am so sorry. You are having this baby today. There is nothing else we can do.”

No, no, no, no, no!

Up until this  point, I had been calm, almost stoic even. I could not have this baby today! I was not even 24 weeks yet. Today was my first-born’s third birthday. I was supposed to be eating cake and blowing out candles. What is going on? I burst into tears and the frustration of it all shook my body violently. I was so scared for my baby girl, and I was alone, which was not helping the level of my stress.

The doctors grabbed my attention and started talking to me about the “plan”–no intervention, no monitoring, no C-secton. We are going to try vaginally, and the baby might not make it, but she’s so little that….blah, blah, blah. Now, you may remember that just two days ago, I was totally on board with this plan. I was at peace with this plan. God told me that it was going to be okay, and I knew He was in control. And for some reason that I could not have known, earlier that day, I had already known in my heart that that day, the plan would be different. I woke up and thought, “Today. Today, if she’s born, I want a C-section.” This probably sounds totally absurd to all of you reading this, and honestly, I probably didn’t think too much of it in the moment, but all day I was sick with the idea of not monitoring my baby. I knew I wanted more at that point. So as the doctors continued to talk about “the plan,” I fumbled through the words, “Um, no. No, I want her to be monitored. I want a C-section if she’s in distress.” I want to do everything I can to save her, even if it means a scar up and down my stomach. Dr. F. stopped mid-sentence and said, “But that wasn’t the plan. That is a change,” We spent a few minutes going back and forth, her explaining the difference in “the plan” to me, and me telling her over and over that I was sure that I wanted to do this. Suddenly, it was like a switch was flipped. “Ok. Find the heartbeat. Hook her up. We gotta make sure this baby is doing okay.” If I had thought they were moving quickly before, they were moving three times as quickly now. This is when things got a little crazy. Remember, Ana was still so, so tiny, and the machines that they have on Labor and Delivery floors are made for nice, big, 6, 7 and 8 pounders who are ready to pop out. So they were having a really hard time finding the heartbeat. And because suddenly the life of my baby was of the utmost importance, they needed to find that heartbeat. And fast. They found it, but it was faint, and seemed slow. They pushed me to one side, then the other. Dr. F. was moving quickly, and urgently. “Get oxygen!” she yelled to one of the nurses. They grabbed an oxygen mask and slapped in on my face. “We are going to try to help your baby by giving you oxygen,” she explained. I could tell that she was getting worried, and I wasn’t sure if I was about to be wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-secion any minute. Sometime during this craze my mom walked in. I think I said something like, “What are you doing here? Where is Abi?” She had called a friend who lives in Boston, who was sitting with Abi in the waiting room because Esteban was stuck in traffic. Esteban wanted someone to be with me. So my mom walked into me hooked up to about 12 things, an oxygen mask on my face, and doctors and nurses running all around me. A pleasant sight, I’m sure.

And then, amidst all this chaos, my sweet L&D nurse, Beverly, grabbed the fetal monitor from the doctor and said, “Stop for a minute let me try.” Still hustle and bustle. “Please be quiet. Calm down.” Chaos, stress, hustle and bustle. “EVERYONE STOP!” Beverly was taking charge. She slowly and calmly moved the monitor around my belly. I helped direct her hand to where I knew Ana usually was. And then, there she was–nice and strong. “Woosh, thump. Woosh, thump. Woosh, thump.” Her heart rate was coming up. She was not in distress. She was okay.  This is just one of the reasons that the sweet nurses who took care of me and Ana will forever be etched into a special corner of my heart. They were there every step of the way. They are fierce advocates for their patients, knowledgable resources and steady hands amidst a chaotic situation. Thank you, nurses. And thank you, nurse Beverly.

At this point, I was feeling miserable. I had magnesium coursing through my body, making me feel all sorts of awful things, and I was having pretty strong contractions, one on top of the other. And I was laying in a hospital bed. I was a hot mess. Literally, a very, very, very hot mess of a person right then. But now that things were stable, we had to figure out what we were going to do. Ana was head down, which meant there was a chance I could deliver her vaginally. But because she was so very tiny, we weren’t sure that she would make it through the delivery, so we needed to be ready for a C-section if she began to show signs of distress. In order to be ready for that option, Dr. F. suggested that I get an epidural now, so that I wouldn’t have to have a C-section with only local anesthesia. The thought of having someone cut open my stomach while I could feel it was not really very appealing, so I chose option #1–the epidural. And to be completely honest, I was more scared of this than anything else! And after having experienced full term labor without an epidural and experienced an epidural, I would 100% choose no epidural if I ever get the chance. What a strange experience to not be able to feel half of your body. I’m pretty sure I cried and nearly broke Beverly’s hand while the anesthesiologist put the gigantic needle into my back, which he later had to move because only one leg was numb. Crazy!

Anyway, once that was done, we were ready for anything. So we just waited for something to happen. Either I would be fully dilated, and would begin to push my tiny baby out, or she would go into distress and we would rush to a C-section. Boy, I was hoping for the first.

By this time Esteban was in the room with me. I think he arrived sometime during the “Let’s talk about the epidural” stage of things. He sat next to me as I closed my eyes and drifted in and out of sleep, my head pounding and my body on fire. We listened to music and prayed, laughed a little, and talked to Beverly about her kids. We told all the nurses about how it was our first baby’s 3rd birthday, and how this baby was probably going to make her entrance on her sister’s birthday. So strange!

Around 10PM (I think), the doctor came in to check on my progression. (I’m sure they came other times besides that too, I just don’t really remember them.) Dr. S (who was working under Dr. F) said that I was about 9 centimeters, and that I could probably push the baby out since she was so tiny. “Let’s do this!” he said with a smile. It was all a little strange, really. Normally, when you are having a baby, people are happy, excited, eager to meet your little one. This felt like I was walking towards something awful. I wanted so badly for her to stay inside, where she would be safe and grow. But she was coming, and there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to be excited, petrified, devastated, or a combination of all three. Dr. S. said they would call the NICU and “round the troops” and they would be back to start. You see, when you have a baby at 23 weeks, there are a lot of people who need to be there when it happens. In that time that everyone left the room to prepare for the big event, Esteban and I listened to the song”Glorificate”–you can listen to it here. And in the quiet of that hospital room, just minutes before we would meet our daughter, we asked that God would show His glory that night. We prayed that people would see God’s face and know His goodness. We declared God’s greatness and His majesty in the world, and asked him to help us believe that His plan was better than ours. Here are the words of the chorus in English: (Disclaimer: It sounds better in Spanish!)

Be glorified.

Open the heavens, and make it rain.

Show us your glory, we want to see you, 

and to praise you–be exalted and be glorified. 

Somehow, God is good and gracious enough to do this for us–to give us unnatural strength in the midst of awful situations. Truly I can tell you that in that moment I did not know whether my baby would live or die. As we sang this song, I wept because I didn’t know if the way God would show His glory would be to take my baby. I was scared, and heartbroken. But above everything else, I wanted to be faithful to my God who had sent His Son to give me the chance to have eternal life. How could I not offer him my “plan”, when He had offered me His most precious Son, and the gift of hope through life with Him forever?

And so, we prayed and we offered the next minutes to Him. And just after that, Dr. S. came back into the room and told me they were ready. He quietly took my hand and said, “Now, when you have a baby at 23 weeks, all modesty and decency kind of goes out the window, I’m sorry to say.” I think I laughed nervously. Basically, he was telling me that everyone under the sun was about to see all parts of me. Lovely. “Whatever,” I think I said, “that is the least of my worries right now.” He told me they were bringing them in, and suddenly the door opened and about 200 people walked in.

Okay, maybe not that many.

But when you are laying on a hospital bed in a johnny, with your legs spread opened wide, 15 or 20 people really do feel like somewhere around 200. We watched as the NICU doctors and nurses set up their station for our baby. Dr. M. came and shook my hand; he was the NICU doc supervising this whole thing. He told me that they would take my baby, see how she was breathing, and then intubate her if she needed it. “Sometimes they are not breathing, and we have to resuscitate them, and if we can’t do that then we’ll have to talk about other options. But that usually doesn’t happen, so don’t worry”. He told me they would put my baby in a bag, so not to be worried; it was just to keep her warm because she was so tiny. He told us that Dad could go with them to the NICU and get her settled, and then I would see her later, assuming everything went well.

At this point, I was totally overwhelmed. My body was shaking, I was freezing, but sweating, petrified, but wanting to stop time forever right in this moment.

Finally, the NICU team was ready, the docs were ready, and I had a contraction. “Now, push!” Dr. S. said. There were three L&D doctors helping with the delivery, making sure that Ana didn’t get stuck, or strangled by the cord. I pushed. Hard. She was almost out. A few minutes later I had another contraction and I pushed harder than I thought I could. And out she came. It all was so fast. I didn’t know what was happening, or what to feel. Happiness? Dread? Worry? Was she alive? Was she breathing? Esteban kissed my head and the doctors said something about my placenta. I don’t know.

And then, I heard it.

It was a faint squeal. Like a cat.

My heart stopped.

It couldn’t be?

Beverly looked at me, her eyes smiling.

“Is that…” I said, not wanting to say it if it wasn’t true.

“Yes! That’s your baby! She’s crying!”

I have never experienced so much relief in one moment in my entire life. Never. Tears streamed down my face and I wept for my baby’s life. I think I thanked Jesus out loud over and over and over again. (The doctors must have thought I was nuts.)  But man, was I thankful to Jesus in that moment!

The feeling in the room lightened and the NICU docs invited Esteban over to them to meet our new daughter. The nurses asked me what her name was–Anamaria Milagros. There was a little bit of hope that our girl would live. She was breathing. Thank you God.IMG_6394

The very first picture we have of Ana- one that we haven’t showed to many people up until now. 

Esteban cut the cord. They wrapped her up. They brought her to me and I kissed her on the forehead. She was so, so tiny. I had never seen anything so tiny. She had a tube in her mouth, and they were pumping air to keep her breathing. They put her in a incubator and said they were going to the NICU. I could tell Esteban did not know what to do, and I yelled at him, “GO with her! Follow her!”

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And just like that, I was alone in Room 1 with Beverly again. What a surreal and strange experience. She helped clean me up, it was a little more complicated than it usually is, but I won’t go into detail about that. Let’s just say there was a lot of blood and discomfort.

A while later, Esteban came in, tears flowing down his face. “She’s moving. She’s okay. She’s okay. She’s alive.”

I begged him to show me pictures and videos and I watched my 1 pound baby girl kick her leg. She was so tiny, and so skinny, and so red. But she was mine, and she was alive.

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Ana weighed 1lb. 4oz. There is 1 oz. extra here because of her diaper! 

That night all I cared about was that my baby had made it through that day. I had no idea the journey that would follow. I was in some sort of weird daze, and I was so happy that Ana was still with me, and so thankful that God didn’t take her from me. I knew she could still die. I knew she might not make it, but now she was with me. I finally was recovered enough to leave L&D a couple hours later and they wheeled me up to meet Ana. We spent a while with her. I held her hand and stroked her arm.

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This is the first time I am showing pictures of the night Ana was born. She was so, so, so tiny; her skin so fragile, and her breathing so labored. Her fingers and her toes kept turning blue/black because her circulation wasn’t quite right. The humidity in her incubator had to be up to almost 90%. A few days later her skin would become almost raw from being exposed to so much that it wasn’t ready for. So many things that were impossible to explain to people who didn’t understand this. 

And despite all this, she was mine. And I loved her. Every time I talked with her, I told her to be strong. And we willed her to live.

And she did.

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God is so good to us.

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